‘It just feels a bit sad’: the Rev Richard Coles disappointed at ‘rushed’ BBC Radio 4 exit

The Rev Richard Coles is disappointed to be leaving his weekend Radio 4 programme Saturday Live after 12 years, he has told the Guardian. His departure was caused by the BBC’s decision to relocate the programme – which he co-hosts with broadcaster Nikki Bedi – from London to Cardiff, leaving him unable to continue after this Saturday, 25 March, which will be his final show.

“I’d have preferred the programme to stay in London. I think it would be better. I was happy doing it and I think it’s gone from strength to strength,” said Coles. “Moving it to Cardiff, I don’t really see how that works, but that’s not my decision – that’s other people’s decision.

“I think the programme was doing really well, actually,” he continued. “We were both enjoying doing it and it’s a shame it can’t continue in the form it’s been in for a long time, which works, and which pleases listeners.”

Coles is particularly disappointed at the way the BBC has handled his departure. Despite the decision for him to step down having been taken weeks ago – as part of the corporation’s wider strategy to move programmes outside of London – the broadcaster neglected to make a statement about it until Tuesday night – only five days before his final show.

When they did announce it, it was with minimal fanfare, flagged to journalists as a brief note in an email accompanying a press release about the content of this weekend’s Saturday Live, with Coles’ departure failing even to earn its own dedicated announcement.

If you leave a programme after 12 years, a gentler process would have been nice

“If you leave a programme after 12 years, a gentler process would have been nice. But what happens happens,” he said. “It just feels a little bit rushed. It’s been frustrating for me having to wait for an announcement, and now it’s my last programme on Saturday. I’d rather have had a longer goodbye to listeners.”

Coles’ departure is in marked contrast to that of Ken Bruce, who recently left his BBC Radio 2 morning show after 31 years. The BBC flagged his departure in a dedicated statement months in advance of his final show, then released pictures of his last broadcast. When it was put to Coles that, in comparison, the BBC have failed to mark his exit with the respect he deserved, given his length of service, Coles replied: “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

However, he added: “It just feels a bit sad. I’m sorry to go; I’ve loved the programme, I’ve loved the people I’ve worked with, and it’s been a big part of my life. I shall miss it.”

Coles is the latest BBC presenter to express dissatisfaction at his treatment by the corporation, following the furore over their treatment of Gary Lineker. After they removed the broadcaster from an episode of Match of the Day in a dispute over impartiality, huge numbers of sports presenters and commentators walked out, with the row eventually calling into question the continued presence of chair Richard Sharp, given that he hadn’t stepped down from his role, despite being investigated over facilitating a loan to Boris Johnson, reportedly worth about £800,000.

Coles’s departure has thus far been far more low key, with the presenter yet to make any public statement on the matter, and the BBC giving so little acknowledgement to his final show that as yet, not a single fan has contacted the presenter about his impending exit. “I haven’t heard from any listeners yet. I don’t think it’s been on Twitter or anything. Perhaps people just think, ‘oh well’,” he said. “I’ve been on the programme a really long time and have enjoyed a really great relationship with listeners, so I’m sorry that’s coming to an end.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “Richard has been brilliant on Saturday mornings and very much continues to be part of the Radio 4 family. We look forward to working with him on future projects.”