'It's a really exciting time in radio': Zoe Ball on her new Radio 2 breakfast show

Zoe Ball

Zoe Ball started her BBC Radio 2 breakfast show at 6.30am this morning (January 14). After a brief, "super-excited" intro from Ball, the presenter launched her show by playing Aretha Franklin's Respect.

"First record, I hope you approve," said Ball afterwards. "It had to be a dame on this occasion I thought, and they come no greater than the Queen Of Soul."

Ahead of the launch, Ball told Music Week she’s confident the new show will live up to expectations.

Ball becomes the first female host of the show – just as she became the first female host of the BBC Radio 1 breakfast show, over 20 years ago. Like then, she is replacing Chris Evans and, like then, Evans will be starting a rival breakfast show on Virgin Radio (although this time Evans starts a week later, rather than on the same day).

This time around, there is also plenty of upheaval elsewhere on the radio dial, with almost every major breakfast show switching presenters in the last 12 months. Lauren Laverne kicked off BBC Radio 6 Music’s new schedule last week, and Ball is joined on the new 2 line-up by fresh shows from Sara Cox, Jo Whiley and Trevor Nelson.

“I’m feeling so excited,” Ball told Music Week ahead of her first show. “It’s a really exciting time in radio. For a country that isn’t keen on change there’s a lot happening! I listen to a lot of 6 Music and it’s been really amazing in the building this week, seeing Sara [Cox] getting ready, seeing Trevor [Nelson] and Jo [Whiley], Shaun [Keaveny] and Matt [Everitt] moving around and Mary Anne [Hobbs] and Lauren [Laverne]. Being the new kid in a new gig with loads of expectation on you, it feels shared because there’s a lot of change, so everyone’s going through it together.”

Ball told Music Week the show wouldn’t be a radical departure from the Radio 2 formula that’s made it the biggest music show in the UK under Terry Wogan and then Evans.

“Our key things are to bring energy, lots of music and all those elements that people want from a breakfast show,” she said. “People want to be informed on what’s going on and to have those water cooler chats about the telly and stuff like that, to bring some great guests and some fun, to bring the kids. We feel that we’ve got all those things so hopefully people will like it.”

Regular features will include Hit, Miss Or Maybe – which some listeners might remember from Ball’s days on Saturday morning TV show Live & Kicking, and which will feature guest celebrities giving their verdict on three new records.

Ball has put together a team for the show including long-time Radio 1 newsreader Tina Daheley, travel news presenter Richie Anderson and sports presenter Mike Williams. Carol Kirkwood, who featured on Evans’ show, continues to do the weather.

“I’ve got such a great team on my show,” said Ball, who spent last week doing as-live pilots ahead of the debut. “Tina Daheley was like that final piece fitting into the jigsaw puzzle, she’s perfect. She’s so much fun, she sounds great and the whole team is really excited about the show. We can’t wait.”

The Radio 2 audience has not always been keen to embrace change – as shown by the backlash against Simon Mayo and Jo Whiley’s Drivetime show, now abandoned.

“I know not everybody’s happy, there’s always going to be people who aren’t,” said Ball. “That’s the beauty of radio in the digital age: if you don’t like it, there’s so much on offer that you can listen to.

“But I really hope people are going to enjoy it and like it,” she added. “We’ve all been skipping around, saying ‘This feels good, this feels positive’. We’re getting some lovely encouragement from people so hopefully I won’t fuck it up!” 

* To read Music Week’s investigation into 2018’s radio turmoil, click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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