Greg James Defends Radio 1's Move Away From Older Artists Ahead Of Breakfast Show Debut

Greg talked exclusively about his plans for the show and challenges in the industry.

Greg James is about to take on the biggest challenge of his 10-year broadcasting career as he follows Nick Grimshaw as the host of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show - and just like his predecessor, he is determined to bring more younger listeners to the station.

While Radio 1 bosses have made no secret of their desire to shed its older audience, the station has faced criticism on a number of occasions for ignoring more established acts like Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams.

Greg is preparing to take over after six years presenting the drivetime slot on Radio 1
Greg is preparing to take over after six years presenting the drivetime slot on Radio 1
Jo Hale via Getty Images

The Queen Of Pop, who turns 60 this week, famously slammed the station in 2015, labelling it “discriminatory and unfair” for not playing her single ‘Living For Love’ single because she wasn’t interesting to younger listeners.

However, Greg has defended the station’s efforts to modernise, as he spoke to HuffPost UK ahead of his first Breakfast Show on Monday.

“Radio 1 is the champion of new music so we have to make sure we’re discovering new artists all the time and that’s the really huge part of Radio 1 and we have to give a platform to brand new artists,” he said.

“Madonna has been on in the past, but the whole world has to move on and Radio 1 has to be the place for new artists and breaking new styles.”

His words echoed those of George Ergatoudis, who chaired the weekly playlist meetings on the station, and previously said of the Madonna controversy: “The vast majority of people who like Madonna, who like her music now, are over 30 and frankly, we’ve moved on from Madonna.”

Greg is well known for being a radio fanatic, but he recognises that committing to younger audiences is difficult in today’s media landscape that is dominated by new stars using mediums like YouTube and Facebook.

While Nick was host, he saw the biggest drop in listeners in Radio 1 history, and at one point last year, he was pulling in just 4.93 million listeners, compared to the seven million former host Chris Moyles used to pull in.

Nick and Greg are both committed to younger audiences
Nick and Greg are both committed to younger audiences
PA Archive/PA Images

While bosses have always been quick to point out their growing presence and success on social platforms, Greg acknowledged the shift away from the traditional ways people listen to radio content had been challenging.

He said: “I think the media landscape has completely changed, there’s still space for everyone but you have to work harder to make sure listeners adding you to their routine as well and we’re also making sure that we have an output on YouTube as well and that’s really important.

“Radio 1 should never be arrogant to think that the listener is going to come and listen to it, you’ve got to make sure your show is on their Instagram feed and bring them to you.”

Even outside of Radio 1, different stations are trying new things to keep their audiences interested.

‘Love Island’ winner Dani Dyer recently co-hosted Capital’s breakfast show only a week after she won, and it was the latest in a recent trend of celebrities hosting radio shows, even though they have little experience with the platform.

But Greg said he wasn’t bothered with the latest development, explaining: “I think as long as the listeners are enjoying your stuff then it doesn’t really matter.

“You can shove anyone the radio or TV but there’s only a few who are brilliant who can really do it.”

Greg is well known for raising money for charity with his physical challenges
Greg is well known for raising money for charity with his physical challenges
Sport Relief

However, one area where Greg is comfortable bringing in younger audiences is when he’s talking about mental health.

He’s talked about it openly on radio against the backdrop of his charity challenge The ‘Gregathlon’, which raised over £1m for mental health charities earlier this year.

“I think that’s the whole thing about Radio 1 being relevant to younger audiences it’s about the issues that are important to them and talking about them and mental health is absolutely one of those main ones,” he said.

“The spirit of the show is that we’re very inclusive and it’s going to be set up for listeners in the morning and that’s what I’m going to be working hard on over the next few months.”

Of what else listeners can expect from the new-look show, he added: “I’ve had a really good time experimenting with big projects like Sports Relief and playing hide and seek, and the bosses have given me great flexibility when doing projects like that, so we’re going to continue doing things like that.”

‘Radio 1 Breakfast With Greg James’ launches on Monday 20 August on BBC Radio 1.


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