Simon Mayo: Radio 2 show with Jo Whiley was ‘stressful’

Simon Mayo and Jo Whiley

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Simon Mayo and Jo Whiley in a publicity shot for their short-lived show

Broadcaster Simon Mayo has spoken out about his decision to leave BBC Radio 2, saying it followed “an awkward, stressful few months”.

Mayo hosted the Drivetime slot on the station for eight years, before his departure last October.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Mayo claimed BBC bosses didn’t consider the impact of introducing Jo Whiley as co-host.

Radio 2 said they would not be commenting on Mayo’s latest statements.

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Mayo will lead the line-up on a new classical music station

Whiley’s addition to Drivetime came after Radio 2 was criticised for its lack of female presenters.

Mayo said: “There was genuine pressure from the top about improving the number of women in daytime”.

The presenter added he was not told about the change in a face-to-face meeting with managers.

Instead, he found out about the decision to introduce a female co-presenter in a phone call with his agent.

Mayo then insisted his co-host should be Whiley, as the pair had been friends for years and had even gone on a family holiday together.

He claimed managers never gave him a sense that the decision would be reversed if it didn’t work, adding: “They’d invested too much political capital in the change.”

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Mayo joined Radio 2 in January 2010

The resulting show met with a huge backlash from listeners and ended after just a few months on air, when Mayo announced his departure from Radio 2.

Mayo said he didn’t see himself, or Whiley, as a victim, saying: “I think victim’s the wrong word. Jo and I worked very hard to make that show as good as it could be.”

His exit came a few weeks after Chris Evans announced he was quitting the station’s breakfast show.

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Chris Evans returned to the Virgin Radio breakfast show in January

Mayo revealed Evans offered him a job at Virgin Radio at the time, saying: “He rang me and said, ‘Do you want to work here?’ I said, ‘I’m already spoken for.”

Mayo will soon be heard in a new show on digital classical music station Scala, which begins on 4 March.

He continues to present a film review show with Mark Kermode on BBC Radio 5 Live.

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Sara Cox is the new host of Drivetime on Radio 2

Sara Cox now presents BBC Radio 2’s Drivetime show and Zoe Ball has become the station’s first female Breakfast show host.

Whiley remains at Radio 2, presenting a weekday evening show.

The changes at Radio 2 have created a more gender balanced presenting line-up. Of the new schedule, Mayo said: “It’s not the way I’d have designed it.”

But he added: “The overwhelming gratitude I have after 36 years eclipses the difficulties of the last months.”

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