TODAY the man who is the epitome of radio Marmite signed off from the Radio 1 breakfast show for the final time. Chris Moyles, the station’s longest serving breakfast DJ, left the programme after eight and a half years. He has never been everyone’s cup of tea. His appointment to arguably the hottest slot in radio wasn’t without criticism and his time hasn’t been without controversy.
But what a mark he’s made.
When Moyles took over from Sarah Cox in 2004 the audience was 5.93 million. At its height in 2010 it went to 7.9 million. His departure comes at a time when Radio 1 is trying to counter criticism that it isn’t following its remit and appealing to a young demographic, (15 – 29). Late night DJ Nick Grimshaw, 27, will take over from 38 year old Moyles. A good move for Radio 1’s all important listener figures? Time will tell.
Love him or loathe him, Moyles is one of the greats. Yes, he divided radio listeners. I was in the loathe camp initially. As a member of the BBC’s editorial policy group, I heard his voice all too often on the recorded examples of talent crossing the lines of acceptability, or worse, flagrantly breaking BBC rules.
My mind was changed following a conversation with a then BBC colleague during an Ed Pol coffee break at Broadcasting House. He was way out of Moyles’ target audience bracket and not someone I thought would be an advocate of the errant DJ. We’d listened to a clip of a Moyles rant which centred around him being told off for what was effectively a form of product placement. He’d mentioned a product several times during a link and had been told off, as he made perfectly clear to his listeners the following day. Many of us had been scathing about his continued breach of BBC guidelines and lamented the poor producer, (Rachel I think at that time), who had to attempt to keep him in line.
My older colleague though, had defended Moyles’ “creativity” and argued that true talent is difficult to contain and maybe a different approach was needed with Moyles. This person had worked with Chris Evans during his infamous Radio 1 days and knew a thing or two about managing difficult presenters. I’d come across my fair share of them in my time, but never on the Moyles/Evans scale. My colleague argued that to get a true reflection of the “genius” of Moyles, we had to listen to his show for the duration, not judge it or him on a series of sample clips which were selected for negative reasons. He was adamant that there were plenty of positive reasons to listen to Moyles, not least because he was a man who knew and loved radio. His parting words to me were something akin to: “You haven’t got to like it, but if you listen to it for what it is, you will appreciate the genius.”
I wasn’t convinced, certainly not about the genius reference, but the following morning instead of my usual routine of flicking from 5Live, Radio Wales, Radio 4 and what was then Red Dragon, I listened to three hours of the Chris Moyles Show. The self styled saviour of Radio 1 converted me.
Few people have managed to push the boundaries of radio like Moyles. He is brash, bolshie – and brilliant. He got people listening, he got them talking, he grew his audience. He them to put their hands in their pockets and support great causes like Comic Relief and Sport Relief and millions of pounds came flooding in. He challenged Simon Mayo’s record for the longest Radio 1 programme and ended up beating the Guiness world record for “radio DJ endurance marathon (team)” and raising almost two and a half million pounds in the process. It was a tour de force which prompted many of us to forgo sleep so we could be a part of it.
Like many of his listeners, I’m way out of the Radio 1 target audience, but I’ve been entertained, informed, probably educated on times. No-one has ever incensed and outraged me one minute and made me laugh out loud the next in the same way as Moyles has over the years. If you understand radio, you surely have to accept that Moyles and his team are masters of their art? No-one does zoo-format like Moyles. It works; the hierarchy, the banter, the insults, the sense of team, the authenticity. It engenders a reaction from the audience – and as the week of final shows has proved, the audience are genuinely engaged and emotionally affected by what they hear, and see. (The BBC have broadcast the shows live on the red button).
Like many others, I blubbed this morning during the final show. I will miss Moyles and the team. The king is dead. Long live the king? No disrespect to Nick Grimshaw, but the Radio 1 monarchy will never be the same again.
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