Ken Bruce recalls drastic precautions Radio 2 used during Queen’s Christmas speech

Ken Bruce bids farewell to BBC colleague

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Ken Bruce, who has hosted his long-running morning show since 1986, opened up on the many difficulties that came with important events, which he says would usually require planning and preparation days ahead of time. 

During his recent interview with Radio Times, the 70-year-old shared how stressful things would get in the lead-up to Her Majesty’s speech on Christmas day. 

This was termed a Grade One broadcast; nothing could be permitted to go wrong

Ken Bruce

The popular radio DJ revealed how he would often volunteer to work during the festive period for several years, fronting a show on Radio 2 which would run from 9am to 11am. 

He continued to add that working on Christmas day was no easy feat, having to ensure the Queen’s speech — which usually aired at 10am — would broadcast without any on-air problems.

And while it would sound relatively simple to play the audio recording with a click of a button, Ken stressed that there were lots of technical things that had been put in place to guarantee the broadcaster would deliver the speech without any glitches or mishaps. 

Ken shared: “Back then, it was broadcast on radio in the morning, at 10am in our case on Radio 2. This was termed a Grade One broadcast; nothing could be permitted to go wrong.

“Timings had to be exact; the introductory words had to be delivered accurately and with gravitas, and I had to press the button on my desk to set the tape rolling.”

The speech was usually saved on a backup file in case the original failed, but in an effort to be sure nothing would go wrong during his show, a third copy was recorded by the studio next door for precautionary measures. 

He continued: “This, you might think, would be belt and braces enough. But no. As a final precaution, the generators in the basement of Broadcasting House were fired up, just in case of a power cut.”

Ken started his career with the Beeb when BBC Radio Scotland launched in November 1978, before going on to front his own show in years to come. 

Meanwhile, back in July, it was reported that the father of six had taken a pay cut, alongside his colleague Zoe Ball, whose earnings decreased by a whopping 28% for a two-year deal. 

Ken’s annual salary had been deducted by £20k to £370k after the changes had been implemented. 

A statement made by Director General Tim Davie in the BBC’s annual report noted: “We have reduced pay on our top stars by 10% and I should say some of the changes won’t yet have fed through in the numbers in the report.”

The following month, Ken bid farewell to his BBC Radio 2 co-star Matt Lucas, who stood in as the host of the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show. 

Ken Bruce agreed to take a pay cut of £20k over the summer

Ken began to tear up as he shared some final words to Matt on his last day at work. 

“Stop it, I’m filling up here. It’s too much, it’s too much. It’s been lovely having you here the past two weeks.”

Then, in September, Shaun Keaveny, who had fronted his popular BBC Radio 6 show for a whopping 14 years, announced that he, too, was leaving the broadcaster.

Taking to Twitter to share a few sweet words about Shaun, he wrote: “So @shaunwkeaveny moves on; a unique broadcaster and a top bloke. Your next adventure awaits!”

Zoe appeared to be just as emotional about Shaun’s departure, tweeting: “Big mess of emotion as our Wogan housemate Shaun Keaveny does his last shows for @bbc6music this week.

“Met back in the day at Xfm with @everittmatt & have stalked them ever since.”

Ken’s morning radio show continues Monday at 9.30am on BBC Radio 2.

You can read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times out now.

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