BBC Radio 1 and 2 play too much mainstream music, claims Radio Centre study

The trade body claims the stations should be more niche than commercial stations

The Radio Centre (the commercial radio sector’s trade body) has criticised BBC Radio 1 and 2 for playing too much mainstream music.

The calls for a change in scheduling have come after the release of the results from a survey carried out by the Radio Centre on 2,000 of the stations’ listeners in September 2014.

The results of the research showed that the BBC stations focused too much on mainstream music, with the likes of One Direction and Gary Barlow featuring regularly on their daily playlists. The study found that only a fifth of listeners could recall specialist music shows on either station and less than a fifth could remember the name of any documentaries or comedy shows on the network.

Furthermore, 30 per cent of the 35 to 44 year olds questioned in the study thought that Radio 1 was aimed at their age group rather than the target demographic of under 29s.

The chief executive of the Radio Centre, Siobhan Kenny commenting on the results, said: “The BBC remains a phenomenal national asset but the fact is that its most valuable radio content is just not cutting through. While nobody seriously suggests that certain bands should be ‘off limits’ to mainstream output like Radio 2, there is a balance to be struck and one that more specifically fulfils the criteria laid out for both Radio 1 and Radio 2.”

Kenny then called for the BBC Trust to, “have more power to police this blend,” mixing specialist shows and music with mainstream to ensure that they create “an environment where all players in the market can flourish” and the licence-paying listener can distinguish a difference between BBC stations and commercial competitors.

The BBC denied the claims made by the Radio Centre, referring to the body’s long-standing criticism of BBC stations, particularly Radio 1 and 2. A spokesman for the BBC said: “These claims bear absolutely no resemblance to our own regular research, our audience feedback or the behaviour of millions of listeners who tune in to Radio 1 and 2’s news, documentaries, speech programming and unique mix every week – programmes that simply are not available on commercial radio.”

Radio 2’s listenership has reached record highs with more than 15 million people tuning in compared to around 10 million a decade and a half ago. Radio 1 is also undergoing changes to reduce the average age of their listeners after repeated demands from the BBC Trust.