Press release dated February 7, 2024

The new extensions look to delve deeper into specific genres and periods of music with context, curation and storytelling done in a way only the BBC can do.

Our extensions for Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 will allow listeners to deep-dive into more pop and classical genres and periods of music they love the most, uniquely created by the BBC. They’ll get a deeper listening experience than what’s available elsewhere, hear brilliant storytelling through our extensive archive, and discover more music to love whatever their mood.— Lorna Clarke, BBC Director of Music

As audience habits are transformed with significant growth in streaming and digital radio listening, BBC Radio looks to launch four distinctive music stations on DAB+, giving people more choice and value from the licence fee and building on the BBC’s wide-ranging support for British music.

The new extensions for BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 3, which will also be available on BBC Sounds, look to delve deeper into specific genres and periods of music with context, curation and storytelling done in a way only the BBC can do.

The extensions build on the BBC’s commitment to new music and British artists by showcasing the BBC’s high-quality on-demand music programmes for more audiences to discover, alongside new commissions fronted by emerging talent and the BBC’s much-loved expert presenters. They will also surface content from the BBC’s rich archive that has captured the story of British music over the past six decades.

The plans have been developed to ensure the BBC serves all its audiences and better meets the expectations of listeners. They will give more choice especially to those who currently are underserved by the BBC, and whom Ofcom have challenged the BBC to do more for. Radio 1’s young listeners and Radio 2’s C2DE audiences often only listen to these stations from the BBC’s existing radio portfolio, and the extensions will offer them more choice around genres and periods of music many of them enjoy, from brands and presenters they trust. Radio 3’s extension offers listeners a calming classical music experience that matches their daily routines and helps them escape the pressures of daily life.

Since the BBC last evolved its radio portfolio in 2002, the audio sector has changed significantly. Music streaming has exploded in popularity, especially with listeners aged under 35 who now spend 30% of their time with radio, compared to 50% with music streaming. But radio still continues to reach 13.3m listeners under 35 each week, and remains one of the most popular sources of music discovery for all audiences, including those under 35. A wealth of new stations have launched on DAB/DAB+, where the majority of live radio listening is projected to take place by 2030.

Listening habits have transformed as a result, and people now expect more choice and control, and clear propositions that help them discover relevant content with more range and breadth, matching their moods.

BBC Radio’s music portfolio has throughout the decades responded to changing listener needs and new opportunities, with Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 starting in 1967, and Radio 6 Music, Radio 1Xtra and Asian Network arriving in 2002. BBC Sounds launched in 2018 as the online destination for the BBC’s live and on-demand content.

The proposed music extensions will be streamlined, curating on-demand music programmes available on BBC Sounds, with archive material and some new commissions, some simulcasting, and a small amount of new live content. They are a cost-effective way to reach audiences on DAB+ where listening is growing as people move over from FM. As DAB+ is much more spectrum efficient, the extensions can be launched by using the BBC’s existing DAB allocation.

The plans are subject to the relevant regulatory approvals, including a Public Interest Test (PIT) for the proposal to launch the DAB+ stations, a process which the BBC will start in the coming weeks and is expected to run until the end of 2024. The BBC will also launch a PIT on the content offer of BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra to allow existing sports related content from the BBC to be played on the station instead of a short marketing trail on constant loop when there are no live sports being broadcast.

Lorna Clarke, Director of BBC Music, says: “Our stations have captured the history of music in the UK during the past six decades for our audiences, and we now want to give them more choice from the BBC as listening habits are changing. Our extensions for Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 will allow listeners to deep-dive into more pop and classical genres and periods of music they love the most, uniquely created by the BBC. They’ll get a deeper listening experience than what’s available elsewhere, hear brilliant storytelling through our extensive archive, and discover more music to love whatever their mood.”

The proposals for the new Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 extensions are:

A new Radio 1 extension helping audiences to discover and re-discover a wide range of music and acts supported by Radio 1 in the 2000s and 2010s, and with a dedicated focus on growing new on-air and off-air talent.

  • It will offer listeners a unique deep-dive into a broad range of iconic tracks and lesser heard gems from the artists that have shaped the last two decades, and respond to the increased demand for depth and breadth and music discovery among younger listeners, offering authentic human curation rather than algorithmically generated playlists.
  • The extension will build on Radio 1’s history of successfully spotting and developing young talent into the industry, helping to stimulate the creative sector. New talent will be showcased across the schedule, growing Radio 1’s emerging on-air talent pool, and with opportunities also for new production talent via suppliers across the UK, alongside Radio 1 music teams.
  • The content mix will include existing on-demand content available on BBC Sounds such as Radio 1’s Workout Anthems and Radio 1’s Chill Out Anthems, new programmes curated by fresh voices, multi-genre blocks including hip-hop, R&B, rock and pop tracks, as well as some simulcasts.  Young listeners will hear context to moments and stories from the past, with a joyful and fun route to discovering music scenes and artists they may have missed the first time around.
  • The extension will build on Radio 1’s role in supporting British artists. It will play around 4,000 tracks in a year, with British artists making up a third of them, and a quarter of the tracks unlikely to get regular play on key commercial stations.

An expanded version of the existing BBC Sounds Radio 1 Dance stream, featuring the widest range of dance music on British radio and telling the story of this significant genre, supporting the development of new UK artists and reflecting the scene to a wider audience, helping to produce global hits from the UK.   

  • Radio 1 Dance showcases the BBC’s investment in dance music. The station hosts the world famous shows already broadcast on Radio 1 e.g. Radio 1’s Essential Mix and Radio 1 Residency featuring the world’s biggest DJs, as well as Radio 1 Dance Party and Future Dance which play an important part in nurturing up and coming producers, DJs and electronic artists; collaborations with UK dance labels and brands with Radio 1 Dance Presents; a deeper dive into dance genres with shows like Radio 1’s Drum & Bass Show; and a showcase for mainstream dance tracks during the daytime and a trip down memory lane with Radio 1’s Dance Anthems.
  • Radio 1 Dance will reflect a broad range of dance music across all sub-genres, from chart toppers to house and drum and bass. The station will showcase current, future and classic dance tracks, with exclusive DJ mixes and content partnerships that reflect the full range of electronic music and dance trends across the UK and globally.
  • Radio 1 Dance on DAB+ will have an expanded content offer that will include new commissions, opening up more opportunities to support British talent, new music and develop new presenters. 45% of tracks will come from UK artists, and a third of music in daytime will be new music. Radio 1 Dance will also reflect and provide context around live events featuring new DJs such as Radio 1’s Dance Weekend: Ibiza and other third party events.

A new Radio 2 extension providing a distinctive take on pop nostalgia, curating the story of pop music primarily from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by some of the people who shaped the cultural landscape at the time, aided by unique access to the BBC’s archive – creating a soundtrack unmatched by anything in the current marketplace.

  • This comprehensive nostalgic experience, fronted by some of Radio 2’s line-up of much loved presenters, will bring heritage artist catalogues and stories to life in a much deeper and more richly textured manner than the main mixed-genre Radio 2 schedule can allow, to celebrate and commemorate significant birthdays, anniversaries and key moments in the history of popular music.
  • From the BBC archives listeners will discover concerts, exclusive BBC sessions, interviews and classic editions of some of the BBC’s most loved music brands and Radio 2 shows from legendary broadcasters that haven’t been aired for decades, all providing insights and reflections on the artists and seminal moments on the three decades that shaped pop music.
  • The programming mix will include some popular Radio 2 content currently available on BBC Sounds such as Sounds of the 60s and ThePaul Gambaccini Collection, alongside some new bespoke commissions, and some simulcasts such as Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs. The stream will draw on a library of around 5,000 tracks a year with a particular focus on UK music, with 40% of the music played from British artists.

A new Radio 3 extension providing a classical music experience that helps listeners unwind, destress and escape the pressures of daily life. It will feature a wide range of classical music both familiar and new, intertwined with voices and soundscapes to create a fresh, distinctive sound that transports listeners to a place of calm.

  • The Radio 3 extension will play peaceful favourites to ethereal choral music, and soothing orchestral textures to minimal and neoclassical sounds, including newly-released pieces and performances of classic works as well as new compositions. The station will champion music by living composers including the new generation of artist-composers who receive a limited amount of airplay on other UK stations. Live and specially-recorded music will feature across the week.
  • It will reflect mood-based repertoire from the BBC Orchestras and Choirs across the UK, the BBC’s New Generation Artists and BBC Introducing acts. The station will also support the BBC Proms through curated music mixes that feature Proms performances, bringing these unique musical moments to a wider UK audience.
  • The schedule will feature popular on-demand titles such as the Mindful Mix, and artist-led shows like Ultimate Calm, as well as new commissions. It will also include simulcast content from Radio 3 such as Night Tracks, and music specifically selected to aid focus.
  • The extension will include shows that lean into the mindfulness, wellbeing and sleep space with unique and compelling combinations of speech and music as heard in BBC Sounds titles like The Music & Meditation Podcast, Tearjerker and The Sleeping Forecast (a combination of Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast and classical music from BBC Introducing artists).
  • Drawing from a library of around 8,000 tracks, it will combine more music from a broader range of classical and contemporary composers than other UK stations to create a consistent, calming listening experience unlike anything in the market.

Today’s announcement also allows the BBC to continue to grow BBC Sounds by offering a broader and deeper music offer for audiences to discover, alongside the BBC’s significant investment in speech podcasts. BBC Sounds already hosts Radio 1 Dance as a music stream, and versions of the three new extensions are planned to launch on BBC Sounds later this year whilst the regulatory process takes place about their distribution on DAB+. BBC Sounds will stop curating content for its second existing music stream, BBC Radio 1 Relax, which was launched during the pandemic.

As part of the plans to evolve BBC’s Radio portfolio to suit the needs of modern audiences, the BBC will also launch a separate Public Interest Test for BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra. Currently the station, established in 2002, plays a short marketing trail on constant loop when there are no live sports being broadcast. The proposal sets out a plan for existing BBC sports related audio content, including BBC Sounds podcasts and programming from the Nations and Regions, to be played on the station. This would allow for the BBC’s existing investment in sports content to reach wider and underserved audiences, and provide them with a destination dedicated to BBC audio sports content, without increasing the BBC’s audio sports rights budget or hours of live sports coverage.