My initial slightly tongue in cheek tweet doesn’t really communicate just how depressing news that the BBC “could” be set to cut two of its digital stations really is.
The loss of BBC 6Music and The Asian Network may only directly effect around a million listeners but the decision would have huge ramifications on everything from the viability of up and coming new bands, the BBC’s relevance to ethnic minorities, and the future of DAB Digital Radio.
It would signal a betrayal by Mark Thompson of the very reasons the BBC exists, ie to represent and provide for EVERYONE irrespective of commercial cost, niche or minority. Perhaps its a sop to a potential incoming Conservative government or to the Murdoch press who broke the story describing the BBC as “Big, Bloated and Cunning“. If so its naive, Murdoch doesn’t dislike a “bloated BBC” its the BBC as a concept, as a public service that he considers disgusting. The idea that for around the price of a Sky Sports subscription people can get TV, national and local radio, iplayer, and a world respected website all without the proprietors enforced political bias is anathema to the man.
Snivelling cockwheasel Tory Shadow Culture minister Ed Vaizey greeted the closures as both “intelligent and sensible“. In 2009 The Sun switched its support to The Conservatives.
Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service – “Valentines Day Special” (MP3) 1hr 50mins
[audio:http://www.musiclikedirt.com/wp-content/MP3/gilles/JarvisCocker.mp3] The Divine Comedy – “A Lady Of A Certain Age” (6music Session) (MP3)
[audio:http://www.musiclikedirt.com/wp-content/MP3/gilles/ALadyOfACertainAge.mp3] DJ Cable – “BBC Asian Network Hype Mixtape Challenge” (MP3) / tracklist
Listen below to Richard Bacon on 6music giving his views on the BBC axing a jewel in its crown… Amanda Holden’s Big Top comedy series
As my earlier tweet hinted Im by no means an evangelical 6music listener but the station has carved out a niche particularly for unsigned and up and coming new acts. Its live sessions in particular have provided a first breakthrough for countless bands who quite simply wouldn’t be heard without it.
The Asian Network is even more vital for acts with much less chance of exposure and by extension ability to earn a living. The stations South Asian remit takes in everything from Bhangra to Bollywood and the British Asian Underground, all styles unlikely to trouble the airwaves anywhere other than on The Asian network.
And its not just about exposure, Performing Rights Society (PRS) money paid per play on stations like 1xtra and Asian Network provide financial support to artists. Pirate radio, and most commercial stations don’t pay out for plays in the same way the BBC stations do so its closure could end careers, and starve scenes of both exposure and an income.
The Asian Network also serves a section of licence fee payers arguably under-represented by Auntie. The cost per listener may be fairly high at the moment but the cost of its loss in terms of minority communities feeling any connection with the BBC could be even greater.
Leaving aside George Lamb, 6music has begun to fulfil the dreamed for potential of being the station John Peel would have wished for and less the one your middle of the road dad would appreciate. There’s a long way to go until Peel would truly have approved but recruiting people like Jarvis Cocker who’s a musically respected name, rather than just a name is a step in the right direction. Take a listen to the Jarvis Cockers Valentines Day special for an example of a wonderfully diverse, intelligent piece of radio at its best.
In The Guardian Phil Jupitas explains how the stations eclectic output simply isnt available anywhere else on the dial. Particularly during the day commercial stations who lack the freedom afforded by licence fee backing have no option but to pump out the most popular mainstream music possible. Like any other station 6music has a playlist that forms the bedrock of its output but DJ’s on the channel are also allowed to play their own choices irrespective of style.
“I once bumped into one of my main competitors from commercial breakfast radio on a train. As we chatted, I bemoaned the fact that we only got nine free choices per show. He looked at me somewhat crestfallen and said “I get one … a week.” Phil Jupitas
As far as I’m concerned 6music is worth the 6 million pounds (or 10 x Chris Moyles paycheck) a year just for providing a home to Adam Buxton and Jake Cornish. I listen to the music free podcast rather than the live show, partly because if Im honest I find the music a little bland. All I can say is whoever penned the old joke about “these arnt wrinkles, theyre laughter lines…. REPLY: Nothings that funny!” never subscribed to the A&J 6music podcast. Watch A&J NWA cover “Help The Police”.
“I was going to buy a digital radio next week. If they get rid of BBC 6music I might as well not fucking bother.” Charlie Brooker on Twitter
DAB Digital Radio will also be badly hit by the loss of two of its most high profile stations. How many people who bought digital radio’s would like Charlie Brooker of thought twice without particularly 6music. As with TV, the government will no doubt be keen to sell off the analogue radio spectrum once the digital switchover is feasible at around the 50% take up point. The figure has barely broken 20% as yet so DAB itself could be fatally undermined by this ill conceived plan.
When The Times leaked news of 6music’s possible closure SaveBBC6music immediately began trending in the top 10 Worldwide tweets and Facebook groups sprang up dedicated to demonstrating the strength of feeling among its 700,000 listeners.
Hopefully the thousands of “Save6music” campaigners will shout equally loudly for the Asian Network too. By demographic coincidence 6music’s largest listening type, 30something white middle class males happen to also be the type likely to spend inordinate amounts of time tweeting, blogging and updating their facebook status. I’m in no way knocking the wonderful outpouring of support 6music has received but DJ’s like Bobby Friction or Pathaan’s Musical Rickshaw on The Asian Network are as much musical champions of the unchampioned as Steve Lamacq on 6Music is.
Their survival is about fighting for musical diversity and as such the two stations are intertwined as a cause. Anyone who’s a truly a music lover should be equally passionate about the survival of both.
Twitter users: Add a SAVE 6 MUSIC & THE ASIAN NETWORK twibbon to your twitter picture here
Facebook SaveAsianNetwork / Save6music
Submit a complaint to the BBC
The Guardian – If the BBC closes 6Music it will be because it cares more about listening figures than fulfilling its public service remit
Phil Jupitas talks about his time on 6music and why its wrong to close it
As a BBC staff member I should to declare an interest, but my main interest is in musical diversity. An example being the new scheme set up by the BBC Introducing team who’ve given vital exposure to new bands across the nation. The volume of music uploaded to the Introducing website has been phenomenal, and as the BBC has a duty to listen to it all they’ve recruited music fans from any part of the BBC. The upshot, I’m assigned a local radio station area and while Im munching my baguette at lunchtime I can listen to anything uploaded from that location. You can’t fast forward or skip tracks but its a privilege to get to hear such a wide variety of music. If in my humble opinion I think a track is worthy of consideration for airplay I can click a button to forward the song on to the Introducing show for that part of the country. They are totally free to ignore my recommendations but it is to borrow The Times’ phrase “a cunning” way of ensuring as much music as possible gets listened to, and where possible given vital exposure.