The BBC has shaken up the daily schedule of Radio 2, the most listened to station in Britain, by moving Jo Whiley to its drivetime show, increasing the number of female presenters and axing three long-running arts programmes.
Whiley will move from her weeknight show to presenting an extended drivetime programme alongside Simon Mayo between 5pm and 8pm.
Other changes include Sara Cox, the former Radio 1 Breakfast Show host, presenting a new 10pm show, and Cerys Matthews, the former Catatonia singer, replacing the BBC veteran Paul Jones as host of a live blues show on Mondays.
Radio 2 has been criticised in the past for the lack of female presenters. Jane Garvey, the host of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, said last summer the station was “extraordinarily male, entirely pale and [paid] big salaries” after the BBC’s list of its highest-paid on-air stars revealed that two-thirds were men, including the Radio 2 regulars Chris Evans, Ken Bruce, Steve Wright, Jeremy Vine and Mayo.
Whiley is the first female DJ to have a permanent show on Radio 2’s daytime schedule for 20 years. She will be paid the same as Mayo for her work on it.
Tony Hall, the director general, has pledged that half of the BBC’s presenters will be women by 2020 and that the broadcaster will eradicate its gender pay gap.
However, the BBC said Whiley’s move to drivetime was “an editorial decision to pair up two of our most popular and much-loved presenters in an exciting partnership”.
The overhaul of the schedule also involves the Arts Show, the Organist Entertains and Listen to the Band being taken off air. The BBC said the shows were being “rested” and that arts programming would be included in the regular shows in its schedule, and brass and organ music would be played inFriday Night is Music Night.
The Organist Entertains has been on Radio 2 for almost 50 years and presented by Nigel Ogden for the last 38 years. Frank Renton has presented Listen to the Band for 23 years and described it as “hugely enjoyable”.
In a blog outlining the changes, which will take effect from May, the head of Radio 2, Lewis Carnie, said: “They have been long-serving programmes on Radio 2, but as the audience evolves we have to reflect what best serves their needs and where there is scope to broaden our offering.”
The Arts Show was presented by Jonathan Ross, and the move to take it off air marks the end of another chapter in his colourful career with the BBC.
Ross left Radio 2 mired in controversy in 2008 when he appeared on his friend Russell Brand’s show and the pair were heard to leave lewd messages on the answerphone of the veteran actor Andrew Sachs.
He was suspended from his Saturday morning show for three months as well as his BBC1 chat show.
On Wednesday the BBC said Ross would not be leaving Radio 2 and it was “talking to him about future presenting opportunities as well as arts and film series”.