You are too old at 65, BBC tells listeners

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A STAR radio presenter believes BBC Radio Solent should ditch its controversial new policy aimed at younger listeners.

Peter White, 59, whose show at the station has been axed, described an internal memo leaked to the Daily Echo as insulting and degrading.

An elderly people's charity added that the communication was "clearly ageist".

BBC Radio Solent's managing editor Mia Costello wrote to staff ordering them to aim their broadcasts at an imaginary couple in their 50s. The leaked memo said presenters should:

  • Only put on callers sounding in the 45-64 age range. I don't want to hear really elderly voices.
  • Only talk about things that are positive and appealing to people in this age range.
  • Only do caller round-ups about people in this age range.

The e-mail was sent to staff on October 16 and this week, amid plummeting listener figures, the station announced major changes, axing blind presenter Mr White and Sunday night jazz show presenter Chris Walker, Top Soil presenter Pippa Greenwood and sailing correspondent Dennis Skillicorn.

Age Concern Hampshire director Chris Perry said: "The phrase really elderly voices' is clearly ageist.

Morning all. Whatever job you do on station, make sure this week, you broadcast to DAVE AND SUE - people in their fifties. ONLY put on callers sounding in the 45-64 range...I don't want to hear really elderly voices... ONLY talk about things that are positive and appealing to people in this age range... ONLY do caller round ups about people in this age range. MAKE SURE YOU PLAY 6-8 DISCS AN HOUR - YES 6-8 DISCS AN HOUR!! REMEMBER - even the older listeners (65+) are leaving us for more upbeat sounding stations.... If we don't, our business won't survive!! Our listeners will have died out and we won't have nurtured up any younger people...that's fact - not fiction... the RAJAR figures show this. Whatever your view of this policy, this is what the business needs, so please make sure you're doing the right thing. Any questions, just see me.

Memo from Mia Costello, managing editor, BBC Radio Solent.

"It is the assumption that people's voices go with age. But Julio Inglesias doesn't sound in his 70s, neither does Bruce Forsyth."

Mr Perry said he would be writing to Ms Costello voicing his concerns.

The Daily Echo spoke to Mr White, who lives in Winchester and runs The Mash Tun pub. He said: "The BBC will probably have to change its attitude over this. It's insulting to the age group they are now trying to attract. It is degrading."

A BBC spokesman said: "We do value our older listeners and it doesn't matter if you're 45 or 105. What matters to us is that our output sounds lively and engaging and appeals to the young at heart. Our up- and-coming audience are 45 and upwards and all our research shows that we mustn't be staid. Out of context these notes sound harsh and we apologise if they offend anyone."

The Daily Echo revealed yesterday how Radio Solent had decided to axe several well-known presenters and bring in a new line up of voices including TV's Sally Taylor as well as Georgina Windsor and Lucy Warhurst.

The move is a response to latest figures showing how Radio Solent has lost a quarter of its audience share in the past year to other local stations including Wave FM.

What do you think about Radio Solent's policy?

Enter your comments below or write to the Southern Daily Echo, Newspaper House, Test Lane, Redbridge, Southampton, Hampshire SO16 9JX

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