If the BBC has to make cuts they are bound to upset sections of its audience. That audience happens to be me right now with the now confirmed suggestion to close the radio station 6music.
I love the BBC. It is a unique offering which no other public service broadcaster can match anywhere else in the world. There is something there for everyone, be it hugely popular television programmes (that I don’t much care for) such as EastEnders or Strictly Come Dancing, or some highbrow arts content (that again I don’t much care for) across Radio 3 and BBC Four. That it does make some quite astonishing television should not be forgotten. Bringing back Doctor Who was a masterstroke, showcasing some of the finest creative talent in the country and entertaining millions. The BBC News and sport websites are particularly compelling as well.
There are of course a lot of things I don’t like about the BBC and everyone has their opinion “given the unique way in which the BBC is funded”. It is ours.
Most of the services from the BBC that I like just better versions or alternatives to commercial offerings elsewhere, not just because they don’t have adverts.
6music is something very different indeed.
It may have a (relatively) small audience but it is a very passionate one and more importantly it is culturally significant. Its target audience is the 30 and 40 something demographic* where I fit in quite nicely; those who are still engaged by creative, popular music and a passionate about the creative and artistic inspiration it creates.
I’ve listened to BBC Director General Mark Thompson last week suggesting that because of the relatively low audience it does not give value for money. He talks of investing more in 6music running the risk of it increasing its audience! He makes its point in reference to it competing against Radio 1 and 2. Well, Mr Thompson, 6music does not compare to either of these two radio stations, who have their very large and worthwhile audience.
Radio 1 is aimed at the U.K.’s youth and while there are specialist shows it is very much a popular mainstream product. It’s a very good one, except it doesn’t appeal to me any more the way it did in my teens and 20s. Although Radio 2 has evolved into more contemporary station, adapting its music to appeal to adults who grew up in the 70s and 80s it remains a mainstream offering.
Radios 1 and 2 are replicated in the commercial sector. 6music is not. The closest we ever got to a 6music was the original XFM which was superb. Even after Capital Radio took it over tit still had some great talent like Ricky Gervais and a fantastic breakfast show with Christian O’Connell. But even then it was a commercial station and had to be driven by commercial factors. As such, at times of peak listening it had to be watered down. More Fall Out Boy than The Fall.
6music has no such commercial incentive. Its brief fits within the entire remit of the BBC to provide culturally important, stimulating entertainment.
Thompson just ended up last week looking foolish:
I’m not sure that Thompson actually understands the outcry. The BBC’s Will Gompertz also doesn’t seem to appreciate the cultural significance:
“As I understand it 6 Music fills a gap between Radio 1 and Radio 2, mixing old with new across a wide musical spectrum from indie to jazz and most stops in-between.”
Yes he really has prefaced a sentence which doesn’t grasp the value of 6music with ‘As I understand it’. You’d think he’d be more informed. Will Gompertz is the BBC’s arts editor.
Look at the playlist. This is not replicated anywhere in the commercial sector, nor does it overlap to any significant degree with Radio 1 or 2. Yesterday Andrew Collins played The Wedding Present. Over the last 10 years 6music is the only UK station I know to have played Juliana Hatfield. I should rest my case there.
It is one of only two radio stations I listen to, the other being the BBC’s 5 live. There is some nonsense going on at that station too, by the moving of its entire operation to Salford. An idealistic move, designed to allow the station to be more nationwide by having a base in the North of England is all very honourable but given the core output of 5 live seems really daft. It works best as a rolling sports and news station. It excels when there is a breaking news story with a political bent. Most of these news stories it covers have their origins in the capital city London. The talent that 5 live has at present will probably be able to conduct interviews and without face-to-face contact to the degree that the audience won’t notice, in much the same way as it does now. However there is no way that this service is going to be better when almost all of it is done this way.
Anyway, I digress. Back to 6music. The talent on that station is phenomenal. It is full of people I’ve grown up with both in print in music. These are people I respect, these are people who mean a lot to me. I’m talking about Andrew Collins, Stuart Maconie, Jarvis Cocker, Gideon Coe, not to mention the annual winner in my most ideal woman in the world award; Lauren Laverne.
If the BBC has to cut costs, 6music should be at the bottom of the list.
6music is music.
BBC Trust, do the right thing.
Visit the BBC Strategy review site
Sign the petition at 38 Degrees
Join the Facebook group (but I suspect this won't have any impact other making you feel better about yourself. The BBC Trust are unlikely to pay attention to a social networking group)