Catherine Scott: Why Radio 2 needs to learn a lesson or two

Jo Whiley with Simon Mayo presenting at Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park, London in 2016.  Pic: Matt Crossick/PA Photo
Jo Whiley with Simon Mayo presenting at Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park, London in 2016. Pic: Matt Crossick/PA Photo
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So BBC Radio 2 has lost another of its stalwarts. Just a few weeks ago Chris Evan revealed he was leaving the coveted Breakfast Show to go to rival network Virgin and now Simon Mayo has announced that he too is to leave the Drivetime show and the station.

Now Mayo has gone to great pains to say it has nothing whatsoever to do with the change to his popular Drivetime show which saw him joined by Jo Whiley earlier this year.

But the move was not popular with listeners and the ratings dropped, followed by a backlash on social media and even a petition asking the BBC to reconsider.

Mayo may say that it has nothing to do with the change of format, and that Jo Whiley was the only person who he would have shared the show with, but would he have gone had things stayed the same? I doubt it.

Even he had said he expected to be with Radio 2 until he was at least 100.

Many speculate that the change in Drivetime was to counter criticism of the BBC for having no women on daytime Radio 2.

Both Mayo and Whiley are extremely talented broadcasters in their own right, and I am sure thoroughly nice people. But does that mean they make a good double act?

It takes some special chemistry to make a double act work – especially on the radio when you have no visual gags to rely on.

Ant and Dec, Morecambe and Wise, Laurel and Hardy, the list goes on – show that double acts can work, but not all do.

What is sad about the BBC’s experiment in giving two talented broadcasters equal billing, and apparently equal pay, is that for whatever reason the go-to radio 
show for many people on their 
drive home is no more.

Mayo is going to write and promote more books, but will still host his Radio 5 Live film show on Fridays with Mark Kermode, and Whiley is going to a new 7pm to 9pm slot similar to her role before her move 
to Drivetime.

The strength of feeling for the ‘old’ 
show can be seen in some of the unacceptable attacks on social media 
of Whiley which has seen Mayo jump to the defence of his friend.

What the BBC must learn from this is ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. The real losers are the millions 
of listeners who have lost a show they loved.

They should also note that just putting two talented 
DJs together who are friends is not always a recipe for success.

Let’s just hope this is the end of the exodus and that the BBC doesn’t lose any more of its talent.

Twitter@ypscott