He’s been on-air since the late 1970s and will celebrate his 69th birthday next year.
But Radio 2 DJ Ken Bruce has no intention of hanging up his microphone, despite the changing face of broadcasting.
Ask the Glasgow-born veteran whether he believes that podcasts will kill radio, and he points to a piece of technology which shows how long he’s been at the top of his game.
Ken, the BBC station’s longest-serving DJ, said: “People have been predicting the death of radio since 1975. Every time something comes in, they think it’s the end.
“I remember when the Sony Walkman came in people said that would be the end of radio because people can listen to what they want when they want now, why should they listen to radio?
“But radio survives.”
Or, at least Ken Bruce does. While local commercial radio stations respond to challenges in the industry by cutting their regional output, Ken remains at the helm of one of the most popular programmes in British broadcasting.
Even if he is responsible for a downturn in industrial productivity every weekday morning, when workers across the country stop to take part in radio’s most popular quiz.
“I think any incoming government might think about banning Popmaster to get the gross national product up by 10%,” said Ken, who hosts the 20-year-old morning music quiz.
“When we started Popmaster in the late 90s we had no idea it would last longer than a few months. Now that 10.30am slot on Radio 2 is the biggest slot of the day on Radio 2.”
Ken’s show pulls in eight million listeners a week and much of its popularity is down to the quiz.
Acknowledging the quiz’s unique place in British workplaces across the country, the show’s producers are this week inviting employers to bid to host the quiz in their place of work.
Stop For Popmaster will see the show call at workplaces in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland during the week beginning July 29.
Ken said: “We’re looking forward to bringing the show to workplaces around the UK, and the only thing we ask is that the workers in each place we visit do the quiz with us.
“Popmaster is something people think they can have a go at, people think they know more than perhaps they do. It’s not easy, and we like to think it’s quite a challenging thing.”
Ken was educated at Hutchesons’ Grammar School and trained as an accountant, before earning his broadcasting chops in hospital radio. He was an on-air announcer before landing shows on BBC Radio Scotland and moving to BBC World Service, eventually joining BBC Radio 2.
“It doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing it all that long,” said the father of six. But if you said to me in 1986 that I’d still be doing this in 2019 then I’d have laughed in your face.
“I still enjoy it, but if I stop enjoying it, I’ll walk away from it. And there’ll be no BBC pension. It’ll just be goodbye.”
Yet he’s hardly part of the nation’s pension crisis – when the BBC published their presenters’ earnings in 2017, Ken was said to earn £300,000 a year. He has many mouths to feed, however, with six kids, three with his current, third, marriage. His youngest is 11, but he finds the age gap keeps him tuned in to cultures he’d otherwise have no grasp of.
“I know more about games like Fortnite than I thought I might,” he said, referring to the hugely popular online game.
“The great thing about having youngsters around is that they can help you sort stuff out if you need it for IT. It does certainly keep you abreast of what’s going on in cultural terms. But if I make a reference on anything to do with current culture they laugh their socks off.”
As for radio, Ken is moving with the times there, too as Popmaster is now available as a podcast.
Ken admits he suspects some are using online search engines to cheat during Popmaster.
He said: “We can’t cheat-proof it 100%, but it’s a bit like cheating when you’re playing golf. You only cheat yourself in the end. If someone is cheating it becomes slightly obvious after a while. And the listening audience erupts with emails and texts and on Twitter. I can’t prove it ever but I’ve come close to calling it out, when it was very obvious.”
To bid to host popmaster at your workplace, email firstname.lastname@example.org