How BBC Radio 2 has transformed in its bid to attract new listeners

The station is on a mission to shake up its listening audience

Paul O'Grady, Simon Mayo, and Ken Bruce are just some of the big names to exit Radio 2 in recent years. (ITV/Getty/BBC)
Paul O'Grady, Simon Mayo, and Ken Bruce are just some of the big names to exit Radio 2 in recent years. (ITV/Getty/BBC)

BBC Radio 2 has been undergoing somewhat of a facelift over the last few years.

Within the space of three years, Radio 2 has seen many of its long-standing stars quit the show and move on – often being replaced quickly with those already in place, and within the space of a week.

Read more: Ken Bruce fans devastated as he quits BBC Radio 2: 'This is too much'

With Ken Bruce being the latest major casualty in what's been a major cull for the radio station, here are all the major changes the radio station has undergone since 2019, and the reactions surrounding it.

BBC Radio 2 – Which presenters have quit and who's replaced them?

British TV personalities Claudia Winkelman and Graham Norton arrives at the Bafta TV Awards Nominees reception at a hotel in central London, Thursday, April 10, 2008. (AP Photo/Nathan Strange)
Claudia Winkelman and Graham Norton (AP Photo/Nathan Strange)

OUT: Graham Norton

In November 2020, Graham Norton marked the start of huge changes when he quit his radio show after 10 years.

He emotionally said: "It has also a privilege to be part of your mornings."

Read more: Eurovision 2023: Alesha Dixon and Hannah Waddingham among new hosts

Norton moved to Virgin Radio, but remains with the BBC for his chat show, Eurovision and Drag Race.

IN: Claudia Winkleman

Claudia Winkleman replaced Norton in his Saturday slot.

"Just the thought of going live on a Saturday morning makes me want to wear a nappy," she said ahead of her Feburary 2021 debut. "Because I’m following an absolute legend!"

Read more: The Traitors viewers praise 'the best TV show I have ever seen' after dramatic finale

She remains there to this day, with Stacey Dooley temporarily stepping in on occasion.

Simon Mayo, Jo Whiley (BBC/Leigh Keily)
Simon Mayo, Jo Whiley (BBC/Leigh Keily)

OUT: Simon Mayo

In a bid to add diversity to the daytime roster, long-time Drivetime host Simon Mayo was paired with Jo Whiley for his late-afternoon slot in 2018. He quit Radio 2 six months later, admitting he thought he'd there til he retired: “They thought it would be an improvement and make the network more contemporary. They made a mistake.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Vanessa Feltz attends a Gala Screening of
Vanessa Feltz (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

OUT: Vanessa Feltz

Vaneesa Feltz quit BBC Radio after 22 years in July 2022, 11 of which was spent doing Radio 2's Early Breakfast Show.

Read more: Vanessa Feltz 'healing' from split on family holiday in Ireland

Feltz said she "loved every moment" but had to step down "to catch up on a much needed decade's deficit of beauty sleep".

Owain Wyn Evans was recently named as her permanent replacement.

Zoe Ball outside Wogan House in London after her first morning hosting the BBC 2 Breakfast Show. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Zoe Ball (Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

IN: Zoe Ball

Zoe Ball replaced Chris Evans on the station's flagship morning show in 2019, becoming the first woman to host the legendary slot.

"I am a crazy mix of elation, wanting to burst into tears, thinking about running away, everything. But mainly thrilled," she told Evans when they announced the news.

Paul O'Grady (PA)
Paul O'Grady (PA)

OUT: Paul O'Grady

After 14 years, Paul O'Grady quit his Sunday afternoon slot in August 2022, saying "now was the time to go".

He's since been critical of the schedule changes that have followed.

"Radio 2 has changed, it's not what it was," he told Metro. "They're trying to aim for a much younger audience, which doesn't make sense because you've got Radio 1."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 06: Rob Beckett attends the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards 2021 at Television Centre on June 06, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Rob Beckett at the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards 2021. (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

IN: Rob Beckett

Initially sharing the schedule with O'Grady in a 13 weeks on/13 weeks off deal, Beckett then became permanent.

O'Grady later acknowledged he didn't like sharing the slot with Beckett, saying: "I did the honourable thing, I honoured my contract, gave my notice in and now I’m off," O'Grady told his Instagram followers.

LONDON - MAY 9:  Steve Wright poses in the pressroom after he won the Lifetime Acievement Award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards at Grosvenor House Hotel on May 9, 2005 in London, England. The prestigious awards recognise national and regional radio stations, broadcasters in both the public and commercial sectors, and radio stations' digital and internet services. Categories include DJ of the Year, UK Station of the Year, Daily Music Show of the Year and Breakfast Show of the Year. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Steve Wright (Getty Images)

OUT: Steve Wright

In September 2022, Steve Wright hosted his last afternoon show after 23 years.

After leaving, Wright said he "wasn't retiring" and said: “I know I have been extremely lucky to do this work and have never taken it for granted."

BBC Radio 2 presenter Scott Mills, pictured with singer Sam Ryder, when Mills started his Great Scott TreadMills Challenge to raise money for Children In Need. (BBC/PA)
BBC Radio 2 presenter Scott Mills, pictured with singer Sam Ryder, when Mills started his Great Scott TreadMills Challenge to raise money for Children In Need. (BBC/PA)

IN: Scott Mills

After 24 years on BBC Radio 1, Scott Mills made the move over to replace Wright on Radio 2 at the end of 2022.

Read more: Scott Mills in 'world of pain' as he does 24-hour Children In Need treadmill challenge

Speaking to Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time, Mills admitted there were some things he could do on Radio 1 that he "would never do on Radio 2".

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: BBC Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce on stage during BBC2 Radio Live 2019 at Hyde Park on September 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Ken Bruce (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

OUT: Ken Bruce

Ken Bruce became the latest casualty of BBC Radio 2 when he announced in February 2023 he was leaving after 31 years hosting his mid-morning show, taking Popmaster with him.

His exit was then sped up by execs, with his last show being a month early. The move was condemned by stars including Rylan and O'Grady, who said he "WAS Radio 2".

LONDON,ENGLAND - MARCH 8: Vernon Kay during the Rock Profiles for Red Nose Day on March 8th, 2022 in London,England. (Photo by Comic Relief/Getty Images)
Vernon Kay during the Rock Profiles for Red Nose Day, 2022. (Comic Relief/Getty Images)

IN: Vernon Kay

Vernon Kay was announced as Bruce's replacement and the decision has been praised by fans who think he's a good fit for Radio 2.

Read more: Vernon Kay says ‘Strictly’ is ‘like a third baby’ for him and Tess Daly

Kay has since said: "Whatever channel you choose to listen to, whoever is on mid-mornings, it's the Ken Bruce slot. He has made it his own and he is an absolute legend of broadcasting."

WATCH: Vernon Kay set to replace Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2