Business News Industry People Media

Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper to leave BBC

By | Published on Wednesday 23 October 2019

Ben Cooper

Radio 1 boss Ben Cooper has confirmed that he is leaving the BBC after a sixteen year stretch at the organisation, saying that it’s “time for a new challenge”. It’s not yet clear if that new challenge will be at Apple Music or Spotify.

Cooper took over the R1 top job from Andy Parfitt in 2011, he having been Parfitt’s long-term deputy. He also oversees 1Xtra and, since 2016, the Asian Network.

In an email to staff, Cooper said yesterday: “It was a childhood dream of mine to work at Radio 1 and I’m grateful to have done that not only as a producer but then also as Controller. After eight years of ‘Listen, Watch, Share’, it’s time for a new challenge”.

“What our stations do for the BBC is so important”, he continued. “Celebrating and championing youth culture in our society, whether that is the new music we play or reflecting the issues that concern young people today – and I’m very proud of what we have achieved together over the years”.

Whenever I turn on Radio 1 these days it seems to be celebrating youth culture of the 1990s, but sure. Whatever you say Coop.

He, by the way, had been a favourite to get the BBC’s new Controller Of Pop Music job when it was first announced earlier this year. And when that role was given to BBC Radio veteran Lorna Clarke in July there was speculation that that might prompt the R1 boss to seek opportunities outside the Corporation. Though obviously, officially speaking, there is no word on whether that did motivate his departure.

In a statement, the Beeb’s Director Of Radio & Education, James Purnell, said: “Throughout his time with us, Ben has kept the stations fresh and relevant with his intuitive leadership and sharp editorial instincts. The ‘Listen, Watch, Share’ strategy, which he has pioneered, has made Radio 1 more than just a radio station – today it’s a hugely impactful youth brand with more than fifteen million weekly YouTube views and over ten million social followers”.

“He’s championed new talent, both on and off air, and built lasting relationships with the music industry”, he continued. “Ben has also protected the unbeatable place we have in the lives of young people in the UK, ensuring our radio stations remain the go to places for the biggest global music acts”.

For all this eulogising, Cooper won’t actually leave the Controller role until the beginning of next year. Who will replace him? Let’s have a punt and say it’ll be Aled Haydn Jones, currently Head Of Programmes at Radio 1, who has already put in over 21 years at the station, so is old enough to remember when 1990s youth culture actually was youth culture.