Radio 1 boss Ben Cooper to leave the BBC

He was responsible for introducing new talent including Maya Jama and The Saturdays' Mollie King.

Radio 1 boss Ben Cooper has announced he is leaving the BBC.

Cooper, who also oversaw the 1Xtra and Asian Network stations, will stay on until the new year.

He took up the role in July 2011, following Andy Parfitt’s departure after more than 30 years at the corporation.

BBC signage
BBC New Broadcasting House in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

In an email sent to employees at the BBC, Cooper said it was time for “a new challenge” after eight years as controller of the three stations.

He said: “I wanted you to know, that after much thought and consideration, I am going to leave the BBC.

“It was a childhood dream of mine to work at Radio 1 and I’m grateful to have done that not only as a producer but then also as Controller.

“After eight years of ‘Listen, Watch, Share’, it’s time for a new challenge.

“What our stations do for the BBC is so important – celebrating and championing youth culture in our society, whether that is the new music we play or reflecting the issues that concern young people today – and I’m very proud of what we have achieved together over the years.

“Thank you for being part of an incredible team of teams that has been so creative, ambitious and passionate.

Lords Communications Select Committee
Director of radio and education James Purnell (PA)

“It is greatly appreciated.”

In another internal email, director of radio and education James Purnell said Cooper had “kept the station fresh and relevant”.

He praised Cooper for turning Radio 1 into “more than just a radio station” and creating a “highly impactful youth brand”.

He said: “He’s championed new talent, both on and off-air, and built lasting relationships with the music industry.

“Ben has also protected the unbeatable place we have in the lives of young people in the UK, ensuring our radio stations remain the go to places for the biggest global music acts.”

Celebrity Gogglebox
Nick Grimshaw (Matt Crossick/PA

Cooper oversaw a number of changes during his time at the helm of Radio 1, 1Xtra and the Asian Network.

He was in charge when Nick Grimshaw took over the Radio 1 breakfast show in 2012.

Grimshaw would go on to become the second-longest serving presenter in the role, taking over from Tony Blackburn.

However, audience numbers fell by a quarter during Grimshaw’s time as host.

An average of 6.7 million listeners per week tuned in during his first three months as presenter, in October-December 2012.

The figures for January-March 2018, shortly before he was replaced by Greg James, put his weekly audience at 5.1 million – a drop of 24%.

The numbers, compiled by research body Rajar, measured listeners aged 15 and over.

Cooper also oversaw Scott Mills’ move to the chart show, and brought in new talent in the form of Maya Jama and The Saturdays’ Mollie King.

This year saw Cooper poach Kiss FM breakfast hosts Rickie Williams, Melvin Odoom and Charlie Hedges to replace departing presenter Charlie Sloth.

Sloth hosted the 9pm-11pm weekday slot as well as Saturday night’s The Rap Show on Radio 1 and 1Xtra but left the station in October last year, earlier than planned, following a foul-mouthed outburst at an awards ceremony.

In 2015, Cooper was forced to deny that there was anything “personal” in Radio 1’s decision not to include Madonna’s then-new single on the station’s playlist.

He angered fans by not putting Living For Love on the playlist, which rates songs on musical merit and relevance to its listeners.

Cooper’s replacement has not yet been announced.

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