Broadcast radio is a big passion of mine and there is an event that happened today that can not pass without comment. Sir Jimmy Young presented his last show on BBC Radio 2 this morning – bringing to an end twenty-nine (or so) years on the air. There is much discussion as to the reasons behind his departure (here and here) but I don’t want to go into them. Neither does it really matter that I have rarely listened to his show. I am usually in the office where we don’t listen to radios (except today as I am on my own) or, if I am elsewhere, there are other stations I prefer. I do, however, think there are a couple of things worth commenting on.
Firstly, for almost thirty years the JY Prog has been a ratings winner. Lunchtime ratings of five million should not be sniffed at. Jimmy Young has managed to stay at the top of his profession longer than many. In this celebrity-obsessed, five minute fame world, Jimmy Young’s achievement should not go without recognition (his Knighthood at the start of the year testament to his appeal). Where presenters rarely last three years, JY lasted almost three decades.
Secondly, and to me a great contribution to broadcasting, Jimmy Young’s show has always been an interactive experience. There has always been audience involvement and comment long before talk-shows, shock-jocks, email and message boards were around (or even thought of). It’s something that should not be forgotten and I believe it has been a great contribution to broadcasting.
Thirdly, his style may not be to everyone’s taste but Jimmy Young has been able to interview some of the top politicians of the day and get them to answer questions without the need to resort to aggressive interview tactics. He was able to ask the questions many people would like to ask Prime Ministers directly. In an era where politicians (and politics) have been reduced to the level of a sound bite, this is also an achievement worth noting.
Finally, the way in which he has left the network has been sad. It was leaked 18 months ago that Radio 2 were talking to others about taking over the show? In itself, that is not an unreasonable thing to do for the network controller. For it to become a public affair (with questions in the House of Commons) is quite the opposite.