Radio 1 in a turmoil after chief quits: Commercial pressure and crises of identity among broadcasters could change the face of some of Britain's most popular media institutions

'THE NATION'S favourite radio station' was in turmoil last week after the sudden resignation of its controller, Johnny Beerling. The news, broken to staff at a hastily convened Monday morning meeting, marked the end of an era for Radio 1 - Beerling joined the station at its launch in 1967.

The station is embroiled in a fierce struggle to retain its identity and its ratings. The controller's departure was followed by leaked ratings from the first month on air of Richard Branson's Virgin 1215. The unofficial figures give Radio 1's first national rock rival a 7 per cent share of the audience - nearly 3.5 million listeners. Many of these will have come from Radio 1, whose audience has fallen consistently with the recent growth of commercial competition and is now around 19 million.

The atmosphere of gloom at 1 FM was compounded by reports that the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Peter Brooke, is still toying with proposals that Radio 1 and Radio 2 should carry advertising. Several responses to the Government's Green Paper on the future of the BBC, including that of the Radio Authority, have argued strongly that Radio 1 should be sold to a commercial buyer.

Mr Beerling's resignation threw into doubt all the ill-kept secrets about autumn changes at the station. The open secret at its headquarters just opposite Broadcasting House in central London had been that the mid- morning housewives' choice, Simon Bates, 43, was to be switched to a weekend show.

Dave Lee Travis, 48, has also been rumoured to be leaving. The self-styled 'bearded wonder', whose weekend show wins high audience figures, joined Radio 1 24 years ago, before its typical listener was born. Speculation now is that Radio 2 will make him an offer if he cannot get a better deal from a big commercial station.

A Radio 1 disc jockey said: 'If Radio 1 and Radio 2 had an integrated policy, he and Bates would be off to Radio 2 by now.'

According to plans that Mr Beerling is believed to have been drawing up, Simon Mayo, who has hosted the breakfast show - which has Radio 1's single biggest audience - for more than five years, was to do a straight swap with Steve Wright, whose afternoon show is widely regarded as one of the station's most innovative programmes. Mark Goodier was to take over Bates's show.

But with Mr Beerling's departure 'all deals are off', according to a source at the station. And presenters and producers have a new fear - that Janet Street-Porter, the BBC's head of youth programmes, is interested in taking the station on. She has been a past critic of its format.

If not Ms Street-Porter, the next controller might come from commercial radio.

Paul Robinson, editor of mainstream programmes, has already confirmed that he will apply for the job. The other internal front- runner is thought to be Chris Lycett, Mr Beerling's deputy.

Tony Blackburn, who was at the station for 15 years from its launch, believes it has lost its identity and badly needs a fresh mind from commercial radio. He thinks it is suffering from 'Birtism' - more speech. He said: 'It's got gay shows, religious shows, it's going more speech-based and losing its identity. Radio 1 had its heyday in the Sixties and Seventies. But it's now got a confusing mix of broadcasters, including people older than me, when it is supposed to be a young people's station.'

The brightest ray of hope for the embattled station is that Liz Forgan, the BBC's head of network radio, is a staunch and outspoken champion. She said last week: 'Radio 1 is going to be the most popular network on the radio for ever as far as I am concerned and the key to that is music aimed at a young audience.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing