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The BBC have already lost the war for the 10:30am radio time slot

Connor Banks


microphone in studio recording news on radio

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On a cold winter morning over 25 years ago, a new era dawned in the radio world. A new beginning, the start of a legendary radio game show that aired at just the right time for the country's tea break. It was on that fateful February morning 1998 that Ken Bruce’s PopMaster was born leading to a golden age of mid morning tea breaks enhanced by a music quiz that everyone could play along with. Whether you were out working on a building site or in an office, everyone could play along and this largely led to its success along with the charm from charismatic host, Ken Bruce. This popularity was not just my opinion, oh no, the nation largely held this view as well with Ken Bruce’s time slot being the 2nd most popular radio show in Britain (YouGov poll) just narrowly losing to the actual news. 

tea break time

As mentioned the format was easy to play along to. Two contestants were asked 10 questions each worth 3 points. That is except for the 3rd, 6th and 9th questions which were reserved for the bonuses. The bonus questions involve listening to a brief piece of music and, if answered correctly, are worth six points. The winning contestant then goes on to play "Three-in-Ten". In this part of the quiz they have ten seconds to name three UK Singles Chart hits for a particular artist or group named by Bruce. This format had largely led to the success of the show with it running consistently every weekday until tragedy struck…

On 17 January 2023, Ken announced live on Radio 2 that he would be leaving the BBC in March, and would be joining Greatest Hits Radio, which announced that PopMaster would continue on his new show, starting on 3 April. With this announcement uncertainty struck the community as to what was going to happen to the vacant time slot, who was going to be crowned with Ken’s former title and would they even have the audacity to launch a rival show? Were fans going to be forced to choose between PopMaster and whatever replaced it on the BBC, if anything at all would replace it? Well to that we have found the answer.

BBC's Ken Bruce

Due to speculated internal politics at the BBC, Ken Bruce was forced out at the start of March despite original plans to fill out the remainder of his contract which would allow the BBC to find a replacement host and maybe even a rival game show. And with that, the BBC’s masterful replacement launched on 6th March 2023. A new 10 question music quiz called “Ten to The Top” is a convoluted mess of a radio game show that no one, including the hosts, understands. The host has to regularly remind themselves and the contestant how the scoring system and question order works. Not only that this new bastardisation of PopMaster does not feature specialist categories meaning the questions are entirely potluck AND on top of that the questions which feature ACTUAL music during MUSIC quiz are so few and far between that you might even forget for a minute that it’s a music quiz. 

This is not only my opinion, many on social media were expressing outrage at what the BBC dares to say is a replacement for the most listened to non news broadcast on radio in the UK. I can only imagine the upward battle Vernon Kay has once he takes over the role. Much like when David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, Vernon Kay has been left with an almost impossible task. And with Ken’s new show starting in April, has the BBC already lost the war? We certainly think so.

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