Ken Bruce: BBC Radio 2 lose one million listeners after exit - why host left BBC and what station he's on now

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Ken Bruce left BBC Radio 2 back in March to host a mid-morning programme on Greatest Hits Radio

BBC Radio 2 has lost one million listeners since Ken Bruce's exit, as listening figures rise for the popular host's new gig at Greatest Hits Radio.

That is according to radio industry body Rajar, who has found that Radio 2 experienced a difficult quarter, seeing numbers plummet by seven figures between April and June. Bruce left the station back in March.

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In his first three months at Greatest Hits Radio, however, Bruce has attracted just shy of three million listeners to his mid-morning show. This is a whopping 1.25 million more than its previous host Mark Goodier.

The second quarter of 2023 has seen BBC Radio 2 hosted by stand-in Greg Davies before Bruce's permanent replacement Vernon Kay took over the slot. The renowned Family Fortunes host presented his first show on May 15, which was halfway through Rajar's measuring period.

Ken Bruce left BBC Radio 2 back in March to host mid-morning programme Greatest Hits Radio - Credit: GettyKen Bruce left BBC Radio 2 back in March to host mid-morning programme Greatest Hits Radio - Credit: Getty
Ken Bruce left BBC Radio 2 back in March to host mid-morning programme Greatest Hits Radio - Credit: Getty | Getty Images

In a statement, Ken Bruce commented: "I've always said that it's not really about the numbers and it's not, for me at least, but I'm delighted to hear today's news for the team here at my new home, Greatest Hits Radio. My first four months have flown by and I've loved every minute of it - and there's much more to come. The show wouldn't be what it is without its listeners so your company is always much appreciated."

On top of his mid-morning show, Bruce has been confirmed to host a new spin-off Greatest Hits Radio station dedicated to music from the 1960s. The Scotsman will also launch a TV adaptation of his beloved quiz PopMaster, which he took with him from BBC Radio 2.

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In more doom and gloom for BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball also dropped by 533,000 listeners compared to the previous quarter which brings her total audience down to 6.7 million - though her breakfast show remains the most popular in the UK.

BBC Radio 2 boss Helen Thomas commented: "Radio 2 remains the UK's most popular radio station with 13.5 million loyal listeners who tune in each week to the best music from the past seven decades, presented by some of the country's most loved presenters. Congratulations to the brilliant Zoe Ball who continues to host the most listened to Breakfast Show in the country".

Why did Ken Bruce leave BBC Radio 2?

Ken Bruce had planned to continue working at BBC Radio 2 up until the end of his contract, wishing to leave to continue his career "in a slightly different way in the next few years". Yet the 72-year-old claimed the public broadcaster decided to pull him 17 days early.

Bruce posted on Twitter to announce the news earlier this year and said: "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!"

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Sources told The Sun: "The BBC believe that every second he is on air is just free advertising for his new show on Greatest Hits Radio.They became frustrated by the rival station launching a marketing campaign for his show. It leaves a sour taste."

A BBC Radio 2 spokesperson said in a statement: "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."

Bruce is looking ahead to his future at Greatest Hits Radio, where his new show airs from 10am to 1pm, and he said: "Well, I've got lots of friends still working at the BBC and who worked at the BBC for a long time, and still I'm very, very warm towards the BBC. I think it's a great organisation. It was just time for me to leave and now ... it's been quite a few weeks and really, I'm looking forward to doing a month or two, maybe a year or two, maybe a decade or two, on Greatest Hits Radio".

Ken Bruce is just one of a growing list of big names to either leave BBC Radio 2 or have their number of programmes reduced. This includes the likes of Steve Wright, Craig Charles, Vanessa Feltz and more.

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