Chris Evans’ successor is first female host of the UK’s most listened-to radio show

Zoe Ball

Zoe Ball is to become the first female host of the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show, repeating the feat she achieved with the Radio 1 equivalent more than 20 years ago.

Ball will occupy the seat vacated by Chris Evans from January 2019, fronting the UK’s most listened-to radio programme between 6.30-9.30am, according to measurement body Rajar.

She becomes the first female to take on the job and is only its seventh presenter since John Dunn first helmed the show in 1970.

Among her competition will be BBC Radio 6’s first female breakfast host Lauren Laverne, who will exit her 10am slot for the earlier shift around the same time.

Head of Radio 2 Lewis Carnie described Ball as a “hugely talented and much-loved presenter, who brings over 25 years broadcasting experience to the network”.

He added that she could build on a loyal audience acquired via her Saturday afternoon show, which she has hosted since last year. A successor for this slot has yet to be announced.

BBC radio and music director Bob Shennan said: “The Radio 2 Breakfast Show is arguably the most coveted job in UK radio with a long and illustrious history, and I’m thrilled that the baton is now passing to Zoe, who I know will make the show her very own.”

Ball added that she was “not underestimating the enormity of the task ahead”.

Chris Evans

She joined the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in October 1997 as co-host, nine months since Evans left that post. From 1998 to 2000, she presented it solo.

Previously covering for Evans in his absence from the Radio 2 show, she has presented a range of shows across the station.

Sara Cox will continue in her role as fill-in host for 10 weeks of the year when Ball is on holiday.

Evans, who was last year’s second-highest earner at the BBC with £1.66m-1.67m, announced his departure in September.

At a time when Radio 1 and Radio 4 morning listeners are in decline, the Breakfast Show under his leadership has had a vast, consistent listenership and added 30,000 listeners in the three months to 24 June to hit 9.04m.

BBC director general Tony Hall recently referenced the long-running presenter when he said the requirement to disclose BBC top-talent’s salary had led the corporation to “lose some people”.

Earlier this week, Graham Norton joined Hall’s cry and said the disclosures were “making some staff uncomfortable”, hinting that he may ultimately take his chat-show to the highest bidder.