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Simon Mayo discusses departure from BBC Radio 2

By | Published on Tuesday 5 February 2019

Simon Mayo

Simon Mayo has spoken about his departure from BBC Radio 2 at the end of last year. A move which was announced just months after Jo Whiley was added to his daily show as a co-presenter, something which proved unpopular with some listeners.

The change to Mayo’s daily programme came in May, as part of efforts to improve the station’s poor gender diversity among its presenters. However, the implementation was criticised by many, and there were reports of tensions behind the scenes.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Mayo says that he didn’t learn about the changes to his show from the BBC directly, explaining: “It wasn’t a meeting, it was a phone call from my agent saying she’d had a visit from [Radio 2 controller] Lewis Carnie who’d said, ‘co-presenting is the future'”.

Some complained that there was no chemistry between Mayo and Whiley, but he says that she was actually brought in at his suggestion: “I was concerned that they’d pluck a co-presenter out of a bag somewhere, and I said it needed to be Jo. I’ve known her for a long time and our families had been on holiday together”.

Asked if he agrees that “co-presenting is the future”, he says that he doesn’t think any other Radio 2 shows will be changed in the way his was. “My guess is that there was genuine pressure from the top about improving the number of women in daytime”, he says.

“They looked at the radio I do and the fact I’ve worked with Mark [Kermode, on the BBC Radio 5 Live film show] for many years, and thought, ‘He might at least give it a go'”, he goes on. “Because if you suggested it to some of my former colleagues, [the BBC bosses] know it wouldn’t have worked”.

Does he feel that he and Whiley were victims of a failed experiment then? “I think victim’s the wrong word”, he says. “Jo and I worked very hard to make that show as good as it could be”.

Sara Cox has now taken over Mayo and Whiley’s drivetime slot without a co-presenter. Mayo, meanwhile, continues to present his BBC show with Kermode every Friday, and is also taking up a position on Bauer’s new classical radio station Scala.