BBC Radio 2

BBC Radio 2 is one of the BBC's two flagship national radio stations (the other being BBC Radio 1) and the most popular station in the United Kingdom with over 15 million weekly listeners.[1] Much of its daytime playlist-based programming is adult contemporary or AOR, although the station also broadcasts other specialist musical genres. Radio 2 broadcasts throughout the UK on FM between 88.1 and 90.2 MHz from studios in Wogan House, adjacent to Broadcasting House in central London. Programmes are relayed on digital radio via DAB, Sky, Cable TV, IPTV, Freeview, Freesat and the Internet.

BBC Radio 2
Broadcast areaUnited Kingdom; available worldwide through the internet
Brandingadult contemporary
SloganOn the BBC Sounds App, on your smart speaker, and on 88 to 91 FM (on-air tagline)
Dial up the Fun (advertising slogan)
Frequency88.1 FM - 91.0 FM
First air date30 September 1967
Sister stationsBBC Radio 6 Music

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WebsiteBBC Radio 2



The station was launched at 5:30 am[2] on 30 September 1967, and evolved from Light Programme, with some of the Light Programme's music shows transferring to the newly launched BBC Radio 1. The first show had started at 5:30 am (on the Light Programme) but continued with Breakfast Special from Paul Hollingdale as Radio 1 split.

In early years, much programming and music was common to both stations, particularly on the shared FM frequency. Radio 1 was targeted at the audience of pirate radio stations whereas Radio 2 settled down as a middle-of-the-road station playing laid-back pop/rock, folk and country, jazz and big-band music, easy listening, light classics, and oldies, with significant amounts of comedy and sport. Notable broadcasters on Radio 2 in the 70s and 80s were Tom Edwards and Ray Moore who both singly presented the early breakfast show, Terry Wogan on breakfast, replaced by Ken Bruce and later Derek Jameson; Jimmy Young and his lunchtime news and current affairs show; David Hamilton on mid-afternoons, John Dunn at what became known as drivetime. In its early years the station, as the Light Programme had done, played a large amount of specially recorded music because of needletime restrictions imposed by the Musicians' Union.

On Monday 6 January 1975, the broadcasting hours for BBC Radio 2 were reduced due to budget cuts at the BBC. The former 5 am  2 am schedule was reduced to a 6 am start up Mondays to Saturdays with a 6:55 am start up on Sundays. The station closed down at around 12:30 am each day. However from Monday 29 September 1975 the closedown hours were scaled back even more, with BBC Radio 2 concluding their day at around 12:10 am Mondays to Fridays, and at 12:33 am on Saturdays and Sundays. There were exceptions to the rule, especially over Christmas and New Year periods when hours would be temporarily extended. Broadcasting hours would be extended to the 5 am  2 am schedule on Saturday 1 April 1978.[3][4] On 23 November 1978 the station moved from long wave to medium wave.

On Saturday 27 January 1979, BBC Radio 2 became the first national 24-hour radio station in the UK.[5] In the first half of the 1980s, presenters such as Kenny Everett, David Hamilton and Steve Jones increasingly featured more contemporary pop in their playlists, leading to the station being referred to as "Radio 1 and a half" by some.

Frances Line: 19861996

In response to the controversy these changes had caused in some circles, Frances Line, head of music, repositioned the station in April 1986. She would become Controller in 1990. An ageing Radio 1 audience which had grown up with the station was sticking with it into their 40s and beyond; Line repositioned Radio 2 to appeal exclusively to the over-fifties, introduced older presenters and based the playlist around nostalgia, easy listening and light music. As a result, David Hamilton quit the station at the end of 1986, claiming the music policy had become "geriatric"; Terry Wogan's replacement Derek Jameson also appealed to an older, down-market demographic. Although popular with its target audience, the policy alienated many younger listeners who had listened to both Radio 1 and Radio 2 and the station's audience fell.

It took another hit in 1990 when it lost its medium wave frequencies to a new network, BBC Radio 5 and BBC radio's sports coverage moved from Radio 2 to the new station at the same time. Further blows were struck by the rise of album-rock commercial stations (particularly Virgin Radio) and 'gold' spinoffs from Independent Local Radio stations playing classic pop and rock. With the station's audience in decline a change of emphasis was needed. In 1992 the weekday daytime music policy had been slightly adjusted with pre-1950 music largely confined to Sundays, the launch of Classic FM reduced the need for the station to play light classical music, and the station's profile was boosted by the return of Terry Wogan, but following the generational shift at Radio 1, commercial radio had taken the highest share of the national audience by the mid-1990s.

James Moir "The Nation's Favourite" – 1996 onwards

Line was replaced by James Moir in 1996. Moir repositioned Radio 2 with a largely AOR/contemporary playlist by day, aimed at a more mature audience than Radio 1 (which, post-Britpop, was again starting to focus on a young audience) but still embracing new music, and more specialist broadcasting by recognised genre experts in the evenings. Unlike the early-1990s repositioning of Radio 1 in which the BBC lost many well-known names, many former Radio 1 presenters stayed with the BBC and moved across to Radio 2.

Radio 2 is now termed "the nation's favourite", a title the BBC formerly used for BBC Radio 1. It is the most listened-to station in the UK, its schedule filled with broadcasters such as: Steve Wright, Tony Blackburn, Ken Bruce, Jeremy Vine, Mark Radcliffe, Jo Whiley, Paul Gambaccini, Gary Davies, Johnnie Walker and Bob Harris.

As well as having most listeners nationally, it ranks first in many regions above local radio stations. BBC Radio 2 played to 27% of the available audience in 2006.[6]

In February 2007, Radio 2 recruited Jeff Smith, director of UK and International programming at Napster and a former head of music at Radio 1, as its new head of music. Smith joined the network on 26 March.[7]

The licence fee funding of Radio 2, alongside Radio 1, is often criticised by the commercial sector. In the first quarter of 2011, Radio 2 was part of an efficiency review conducted by John Myers.[8] His role, according to Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, was "to identify both areas of best practice and possible savings."[8]

On 29 July 2013, Radio 2 changed its "sonic logo" for the first time in 15 years, replacing the "heritage" logo composed by US jingle company Groove Worx with a new seven note melody composed by British composer and producer Jem Godfrey.[9] This coincided with the launch of a new jingle package produced by Godfrey in association with Wise Buddah Productions, marking Radio 2's second new package in as many years.

Radio 2 has recently been running several "pop-up" DAB services to cover special events, the first being BBC Radio 2 Eurovision, providing coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014.[10] The station returned in 2015 for coverage of that year's contest. Others include BBC Radio 2 Country covering the C2C: Country to Country festival and BBC Radio 2 50s, a service dedicated to music programmes covering the 1950s.

During 2018 Radio 2 had numerous presenter reshuffles. In May, long-time Drivetime host Simon Mayo was joined by evening DJ Jo Whiley in a new Drivetime format. The move proved unpopular with listeners and by October 2018 Mayo revealed his intention to leave the station, later announcing that this was so he could help launch classical music station Scala Radio. Mayo and Whiley's last show together was broadcast on Thursday 20 December 2018, while Whiley moves back to her evening slot. with Mayo's final show on Radio 2 broadcast on Friday 21 December. Sara Cox was later announced as the new Drivetime host, beginning on 14th January 2019.

Additionally, in September 2018, Chris Evans announced that he would be leaving The Radio 2 Breakfast Show and the station that he had presented since 2010 to move to Virgin Radio. It was later announced that from 14 January 2019 former BBC Radio 1 DJ Zoe Ball would take over from Evans.

Current position

The station's audience is now mainly adults over the age of 35 (82% of listeners)[11] although in recent years it has attracted more younger listeners. Its daytime playlist features music from the 1960s to various current chart hits, album and indie music. The station's appeal is broad and deep, with accessible daytime programmes and specialist programmes of particular types or eras of music. In 2009, Radio 2 again won the Music Week Award for National Radio Station of the Year, an award it won for several consecutive years.[12]

Weekday evenings have historically featured specialist music, including jazz, folk music, blues, country, reggae, classic rock, showtunes and biographies and documentaries on musical artists and genres. This specialist programming previously ran from 8 pm to midnight, but now runs only from 9 to 10pm. Radio 2 hosts both the BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Big Band.

"Sounds of the 60s" remains a regular fixture on the Saturday schedule, as does Johnnie Walker's "Sounds of the 70s" on a Sunday. On 5 October 2013, these two shows were joined by "Sounds of the 80s", which was originally hosted by Sara Cox and broadcast on Friday between 10pm and midnight; in May 2018 Gary Davies took over this show with Cox was hosting a live 10pm to midnight slot on Monday to Thursday, until she moved to drivetime on 14th January 2019.

On Sundays, the schedule reverts closer to its old style, with a focus on easy listening, Jazz and show music, with presenters like Clare Teal and Don Black.

Radio 2 does not broadcast complete works of classical music (the domain of Radio 3) or offer in-depth discussion or drama and although some book readings, comedy and arts coverage still remains on the station this is the remit of Radio 4. Jeremy Vine's weekday lunchtime show covers current and consumer affairs informally, a style pioneered by Jimmy Young. Until the launch of Radio 5 in August 1990, Radio 2's medium wave frequencies carried BBC Radio's sports coverage.

Like all BBC radio stations broadcasting to UK audiences, Radio 2 is funded by the television licence fee, and does not broadcast adverts.

BBC Radio 2's last closedown was at 2:02 am on 27 January 1979. Sarah Kennedy (who later became a daily early-morning presenter from 1993 until her departure in August 2010) was at the Newsdesk after Brian Matthew finished "Round Midnight". From 2 am to 5 am the following night, listeners heard "You and the Night and the Music". Radio 2 has the longest period of continuous broadcasting of any national radio station in the UK.

The BBC Pips are broadcast at 7 am and 8 am on weekdays, then again at 5 pm.

BBC Radio 2 moved its studios from Broadcasting House to the adjacent Wogan House in 2006.[13] Although the majority of programming comes from London, some shows are broadcast from other cities around the UK, including Birmingham and Manchester. For many years, the network's overnight presenters, such as Janice Long and Alex Lester, were based in Birmingham, but made the move to London in April 2008.

News bulletins on Radio 2 generally air on the hour every hour 24 hours a day from a studio in BBC Broadcasting House, with headline updates on the half hour from 05:30–08:30 weekdays during the early and main Breakfast Show.

Current presenters

Notable stand-in presenters

  • Richard Bacon
  • Christopher Biggins (stands in for Liza Tarbuck)
  • Nicki Chapman (stands in for Vanessa Feltz)
  • Fearne Cotton (stands in for The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show)
  • Carol Decker (stands in for Gary Davies Sounds of the 80's)
  • Mark Goodier (stands in for Pick of the Pops)
  • Janey Lee Grace (stands in for Sunday Love Songs; also regular contributor on Steve Wright in the Afternoon)
  • Angie Greaves (stands in for Good Morning Sunday)
  • Jill Halfpenny (stands in for Good Morning Sunday)
  • Matt Lucas (stands in for The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show and Paul O' Grady on the Wireless)
  • Geoff Lloyd (stands in for OJ Borg)
  • Joe Lycett (stands in for Rylan on Saturday)
  • Richard Madeley (stands in for The Michael Ball Show)
  • Maria McErlane (also regular contributor on Graham Norton's show)
  • Scott Mills (stands in for Rylan On Saturday and Claudia on Sunday)
  • Al Murray (stands in for Steve Wright in the Afternoon)
  • Paddy O'Connell (stands in for Jeremy Vine, Liza Tarbuck, Vanessa Feltz, and OJ Borg)
  • Ore Oduba (stands in for Claudia on Sunday, Steve Wright in the Afternoon and Vanessa Feltz)
  • Mica Paris (stands in for Trevor Nelson)
  • Suzi Perry (stands in for Vanessa Feltz, Anneka Rice and Claudia on Sunday)
  • Jodie Prenger (stands in for Paul O'Grady on the Wireless and also provides voiceovers for the show)
  • Katie Puckrik (stands in for Huey Morgan)
  • Amol Rajan (stands in for Jeremy Vine, Vanessa Feltz, and The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show)
  • Anita Rani (stands in for Liza Tarbuck)
  • Adil Ray (stands in for Good Morning Sunday and Liza Tarbuck)
  • Shane Richie (stands in for Liza Tarbuck)
  • Tom Robinson (stands in for Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the 70's)
  • Gaby Roslin (stands in for Paul O'Grady on the Wireless)
  • Helen Skelton (stands in for OJ Borg and Saturday Breakfast with Dermot)
  • Tim Smith (also regular contributor on Steve Wright in the Afternoon)
  • DJ Spoony (stands in for Trevor Nelson and Craig Charles)
  • Kate Thornton (stands in for Saturday Breakfast with Dermot)
  • Ricky Wilson (stands in for Saturday Breakfast with Dermot and Jo Whiley)
  • Will Young (stands in for Jo Whiley)

Notable guest presenters

In addition to its regular and stand-in presenters, Radio 2 is often joined by guest presenters that host one-off documentaries or short series. Such guests have included David Mitchell, Kristian Bush, Suzi Quatro, Don Henley, Kylie Minogue, Carla Bruni, Ed Miliband, Bryan Adams, Sir Tim Rice, David Quantick, Hugh Laurie, Morgan Freeman and Michael Grade.

Notable additional staff

Many of Radio 2's additional on-air staff (particularly newsreaders) are shared with sister station BBC Radio 6 Music.

Notable former presenters


Years servedController
19671968Robin Scott
19681976Douglas Muggeridge
19761978Derek Chinnery
19781980Charles McLelland
19801984David Hatch
19841990Bryant Marriott
19901996Frances Line
19962004James Moir
20042008Lesley Douglas
20092016Bob Shennan
2016presentLewis Carnie


The presenter Sarah Kennedy sometimes attracted controversy before she left the station in 2010. In May 1999, she gave a bizarre performance while standing in for Terry Wogan, blaming the incident on a lack of sleep the previous night.[14] Her slurred speech throughout her show on 13 August 2007 also made the headlines. She blamed a sore throat and later took a month-long break.[15] It was later reported that Kennedy was recovering from pneumonia,[16] and she returned to work on 10 September. In October 2007, she was reprimanded after joking that she had almost run over a black pedestrian because she could not see him in the dark. The BBC later apologised for the comment.[17] She was also "spoken to" by BBC bosses after praising Enoch Powell during a show in July 2009, describing him as "the best prime minister this country never had".[18]

On 16 October 2008, an episode of the Russell Brand Show, co-hosted by fellow Radio 2 presenter Jonathan Ross was recorded for transmission at a later date. The show included Brand and Ross leaving four prank messages on actor Andrew Sachs' answerphone including offensive remarks about his granddaughter and use of foul language. The programme was subsequently broadcast on Saturday 18 October, partially censored, having passed the various pre-transmission checks from the programme's editors. Initially, the programme only received a negligible number of complaints regarding Jonathan Ross' bad language; however, the incident was reported a week later by the Mail on Sunday and a public outcry soon ensued. The case was referred to both Ofcom and the BBC Trust, and in the interim, Ross and Brand were both suspended for 12 weeks from all BBC programmes pending investigation. Soon after these announcements, Russell Brand announced his resignation from the BBC shortly followed by the controller at the time, Lesley Douglas. Jonathan Ross was suspended from the BBC without pay for 12 weeks.[19][20]

In July 2009, longtime presenter Malcolm Laycock announced his resignation live on air following a long running dispute over the content of his show, Sunday Night at 10, and issues regarding his salary.[21] He later criticised Radio 2 management for abandoning its older listeners and claimed to have been constructively dismissed by the station, although Radio 2 denied this was the case.[22]


  1. "Boost for breakfast shows with increased listeners across BBC radio stations". BBC. 31 July 2003. Retrieved 25 December 2008. BBC Radio 2’s weekly audience was 15.49 million (from 15.36m last quarter and 15.05m last year) while the station’s share of listening was 18.3% (17.5% last quarter and 17.3% last year).
  2. "Radio Rewind – BBC Radio 2 History – The 1960s". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  3. "Radio Rewind – BBC Radio 2 History – The 1970s". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  4. "Classic Radio 1 Schedules (1967–2004)" (PDF). Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  5. "Just for you - BBC Radio - Transdiffusion Broadcasting System".
  6. "RAJAR". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  7. "Radio 2 appoints Napster exec as head of music". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  8. Andrews, Amanda (28 November 2010). "BBC enlists commercial sector help to shake up radio". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  9. "Wise Buddah: BBC Radio 2 Jingle Package 2013". Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  10. "BBC – Radio 2 launches 'Radio 2 Eurovision' pop-up DAB radio station – Media centre". Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  11. Plunkett, John (15 February 2010). "Radio 2 must do more to appeal to older listeners, says BBC Trust". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. "Western house – the new studios". BBC. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  14. "'Stressed' Sarah takes a week off". BBC News. 24 May 1999. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
  15. "BBC NEWS – Entertainment – Slurring presenter blames illness".
  16. Donovan, Paul. "Foot in mouth". The Times. London. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  17. "BBC apologises for 'racial slur'". BBC News. 31 October 2007. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
  18. "Kennedy rapped for Powell comment". BBC News. 19 July 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  19. "The ups and downs of Ross' career". BBC News. 30 October 2008. Archived from the original on 2 November 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  20. "Ross suspended for three months". BBC News. 30 October 2008. Archived from the original on 2 November 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  21. Gammell, Caroline (4 August 2009). "Radio 2 listeners 'appalled' at presenter's sudden departure". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  22. Tapper, James. "BBC slammed by Radio 2 DJ Malcolm Laycock". The Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
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