In Brief

Why Simon Mayo quit BBC Radio 2

Drivetime host says bosses were under ‘genuine pressure from the top to improve the number of women’

DJ Simon Mayo, who left BBC Radio 2 in December after 17 years on the network, has spoken for the first time about the problems that caused his departure.

Mayo had hosted the 5pm-7pm drivetime slot on his own since 2010, before Jo Whiley was installed as his co-host for an extended 5pm-8pm edition in a major change to scheduling in 2018.

He revealed in an interview with the Daily Mail: “It was not how I imagined the end of my career at Radio 2 would work out. I certainly had no intention of going anywhere. I had thought I would stay there until I was 94, then retire and drop dead. But it didn’t work out like that, so it was an uncomfortable period.” 

He believes his bosses were under “genuine pressure from the top about improving the number of women in daytime” and they thought they could make the network more contemporary. “They made a mistake,” he said.

Mayo, who first heard he would get a co-host from his agent, said there was never a sense that the decision would be reversed if it failed, because “they’d invested too much political capital in the change”.

Both Mayo and Whiley “are respected broadcasters in their own right but being put together as joint presenters on Radio 2’s drivetime show didn’t work very well”, says Radio Today.

Mayo admitted to the Daily Mail: “It is certainly true that a lot of people found it an awkward thing to listen to, although the audience figures were fine actually. We were still doing good radio work, still doing interviews, the music we played was still good. But we were being played out of position.”

At the time of the switch, Charlotte Runcie in The Daily Telegraph said that Mayo “now sounds dejected”, adding: “The atmosphere is polite but tense.” 

Meanwhile, Catherine Nixey wrote in The Times: “You can see what the bosses at Radio 2 were thinking. Drivetime looks like such an easy gig.”

“All you have to do is play a few records, sound genial when Glenda rings in with a request and produce a bit of banter between the traffic and travel. It's everyman radio. Surely every man - even every woman - can do it?”

"They cannot. And Whiley certainly can’t.”

The pair were eventually replaced by Sara Cox last month to rave reviews.

From March, Mayo will be the mid-morning presenter on the new digital classical music station, Scala Radio, which he describes as “an entertainment network that plays classical music”.

Mayo’s departure was BBC Radio 2’s second major loss in as many months, coming on the heels of Chris Evans’s announcement that he would be giving up his Breakfast Show gig after eight years to join Virgin Radio. Zoe Ball was later revealed as his replacement.

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