It's time we woke up to a woman again, says Biddy Harrison-Draper
Around 8am this morning, when we were all tucking into our Coco Pops, an emotional Nick Grimshaw announced on his long running BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show that he would be stepping down. “This isn’t my forever job”, he poured out live on air.
Speculation began: could this be the moment that a woman would grace the morning airwaves again? It’s been 15 years since the last female Radio 1 breakfast show host, Sara Cox, put her headphones down to allow Chris Moyles to take over. That flame soon dwindled: a few minutes later, Greg James, presenter of Radio 1’s Drivetime show, was confirmed as Nick’s replacement, and vice versa.
And that’s that. It’s like going asking for a double espresso and being given a milky tea. Greg James is safe. His presenting skills are hardly unique or exciting. And to say Radio 1 targets 15-29 year olds from all backgrounds, he’s a 32 year old white man who has been working for the broadcasting company for over 11 years.
Gender shouldn’t come before talent but it’s obvious that the BBC dodged an opportunity to deliver a fresh, young voice to the airwaves. At a time when the BBC is demanding more female voices to be heard and the inclusion of women on screen as well as off the screen, this was a chance to put their money where their mouth it.
The BBC has form in protecting male voices on air. In the history of BBC Radio 1 there have only been two female DJs present the breakfast show – Zoe Ball (1997-2000) and Sara Cox (2000-2003). During Cox’s first few months as Radio 1’s breakfast show presenter she achieved 7.8 million listeners, which was at the time Radio 1’s highest listening figures. Cox was a fresh voice, Bolton born and bred, and she brushed off any impression that BBC presenting was only for those who were well spoken. It’s time that BBC Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper had a flick through the broadcaster’s history book.
BBC Radio 1 has missed golden opportunity to promote the talent of women from all backgrounds, not just those who have been in the music industry before and have turned to radio broadcasting to further their career. It could have been a movement that boosted listening figures and allowed them to return to their glory days of being the angsty teen of the broadcasting industry.
Last year Ben Cooper even admitted “the station needs to regenerate for every generation, like Doctor Who” but it’s clear that it’s not as black and white as that appears to be. In a recent shakeup of new shows and schedules, BBC Radio 1 welcomed a selection of ‘new’ voices. The voices didn’t come from young adults breaking into the broadcasting industry with fresh ideas and sounds, they came from ex Saturdays member Mollie King and reality TV star Scarlett Moffatt. Interestingly enough, the amount of young adults who have trained under the BBC’s work experience and apprenticeship schemes didn’t get a look in.
If the BBC don’t want to play ball with fresh voices and enjoy recycling presenters instead, they should at least consider a voice that is often missed or unheard during the popular slots in the week. Currently, on BBC Radio 1, the station promotes eight female presenters throughout the week compared to the 20 male presenters.
Adele Roberts or B.Traits would be ideal presenters on the Breakfast Show, each presenters who have early morning shows that bring alternative sounds to the radio. If the BBC are keen to keep their presenters, maybe they should consider Alice Levine who will be presenting the breakfast show on Fridays (with the help of Dev because god forbid a woman hosts her own breakfast show) or Gemma Cairney who previously presented the early morning breakfast show on BBC Radio 6. Two women who are not only talented but promote and influence the voices of women throughout their work. But in the face of declining listenership – currently stands at 5.72 million per week – the BBC has chosen vanilla.
BBC Radio 1 has always been known for pushing the boundaries when it comes to presenters but now they’re losing a battle of creativity in order to play safe. It’s time they grow some balls and understand what the people want, and it’s not the voice of a presenter they have heard everyday for the past 11 years. If BBC Radio 1 continues this way, they won’t be the cool kid in the corner, they’ll be dad dancing in their beige pants.