'Cockney' Radio 1 proves a turn-off

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RADIO 1 is expected to publish figures on Monday showing a sharp downturn in its audiences. The figures come in the wake of a shake-up at the station over the past three months, writes Maggie Brown.

Commercial radio stations are also reporting that the addition of more speech and a wholesale change of presenters has given them an opportunity to gain audience share from the BBC.

One station, BRMB in Birmingham, said it had noticed that Danny Baker, the south London presenter broadcasting on Saturday and Sunday mornings, is driving people away because Midlands people do not like his accent.

Industry data for the three months to December will be published on Monday by Rajar, the radio audience research body. Already Liz Forgan, managing director of BBC Radio, has confirmed it will show there has been a drop in audiences. She said it was inevitable that when things changed, some people stopped listening. The network has been changed partly to conform with the BBC's public service objectives and also to rework it, with younger presenters.

Mike Owens, general manager of BRMB, said that it regularly tracks its audiences to see what was happening and 'we sense a certain trend against Radio 1. It comes back to the fact that people are creatures of habit'.

He said that Dave Lee Travis replaced by Danny Baker, played fairly old pop music and ran a simple competition. 'Danny Baker's high-speed delivery, the content of what he says with perhaps obscure humour, may be a mistake. Our experience in Birmingham is that a Cockney accent puts people off.'