Yesterday’s surprise announcement that Andy Parfitt is to step down as Radio 1 Controller provoked a surge of public tributes for taking the station to where it is today. But, while the accolades continue to roll in, I can’t help thinking that Parfitt’s resignation marks the beginning of the end for Radio 1 in its current guise.
With audience numbers at a record high under Parfitt’s leadership – official measurement body RAJAR recorded listening figures of 11.83 million in the first quarter of 2011 – the popularity of Radio 1 can be at no doubt. The question, however, is how much of this audience is made up by the youth station’s target demographic, 15-to 29-year-olds.
Both 52-year-old Parfitt and his prodigal son, shock jock Chris Moyles, have come under fire for being considerably older and, dare I say it, out of touch with Radio 1’s target audience. Certainly, there has long been speculation surrounding 37-year-old Moyles’ suitability as the face of the ‘nation’s favourite’ breakfast show, although his future at the station has been secured, for the time being at least, following the signing of a reported £1 million contract.
But what next for the station that’s been criticised as being out of touch with its listeners?
Parfitt has been instrumental in progressing Radio 1 from an analogue platform to a visually stimulating and digitally relevant multimedia experience, and leaves behind him an impressive legacy that includes the launch of esteemed sister station, 1extra. His most recent reforms include the addition of a new generation of young DJs to primetime and fringe slots, such as Fearne Cotton, Greg James and Nick Grimshaw.
Perhaps Parfitt himself is aware of the changing landscape at Radio 1, in which the schedules are dominated by broadcasters who neatly sit within the target audience age bracket. It will be interesting to see if Parfitt’s as yet unnamed successor will continue with this out with the old, in with the new (and young), vein. Only time will tell if Moyles can retain his mantle as the ‘saviour of Radio 1’ or if young upstart is brought on board to capture the elusive youth market.