Ken Bruce issues warning to Radio 2 over steep drop in listeners after DJ’s departure to Greatest Hits

Ken Bruce has issued a warning to Radio 2 after the station saw its listenership dwindle by a million.

The veteran DJ, 73, regularly presented the Radio 2 show from 9.30am to midday for more than 30 years, until he left the station in March 2023 to be replaced by Vernon Kay.

His decision came after the late Steve Wright, whose cause of death was revealed this week, was nudged out of his Radio 2 afternoon slot, while Simon Mayo, Graham Norton and the late Paul O’Grady also stepped down from their respective programmes.

The departure of Bruce, who took his beloved quiz segment PopMaster to his new stint at Greatest Hits, led to a sharp drop in listeners. However, earlier this year, figures showed the drop appeared to be levelling off.

Radio 2 had an average weekly audience of 13.3 million people in October to December 2023, which was down seven per cent from 14.3 million a year earlier. However, it saw a fall of just one per cent from January to March 2024.

Meanwhile, Greatest Hits Radio has seen a large jump in its average audience over the last 12 months, up 70 per cent from 4.0 million to 6.8 million.

Bruce has now reflected on Radio 2’s decline in listeners – and suggested what he thinks the blame could be attributed to.

“There should always be a clear division between Radio 1 and Radio 2,” he told Beyond the Title podcast, adding: “It’s a state of mind – not just about the music played.”

Bruce also suggested Radio 2 has foolishly been attempting to rebrand itself as “cool”, stating: “When you’re over 35, you’re more comfortable with yourself and don’t mind being uncool. Radio 2 thinking it’s cool is the worst thing we can do.”

A spokesperson for the station said: “Radio 2, the UK’s most listened to radio station with 13.2m listeners each week, continues to target an audience aged 35+, a target that has remained unchanged for decades.

Ken Bruce left Radio 2 in March 2023

Ken Bruce left Radio 2 in March 2023 (Greatest Hits Radio)

“Vernon Kay, who presents Radio 2’s weekday mid-morning show, remains the UK’s most listened to radio programme with 6.75m listeners each week,’ they added.

While Bruce initially said it was his decision to step down from the BBC, he later accused the corporation of pushing him to leave earlier than he had intended, in a tweet shared shortly before his last show.

“I will be presenting my last show on Radio 2 next Friday,” he wrote on 24 February last year. “I had intended fulfilling my contract until the end of March but the BBC has decided it wants me to leave earlier. Let’s enjoy the week ahead!”

Ken Bruce left Radio 2 in March 2023

Ken Bruce left Radio 2 in March 2023 (Getty Images)

Responding to Bruce’s tweet, a BBC spokesperson told The Independent: “Ken decided to leave Radio 2 and it’s always been known he’s leaving in March. Returning to Wogan House for a week after a month of broadcasting the Piano Room sessions at Maida Vale provided a natural break. We wish Ken all the best for the future.”

Additional reporting by Agencies