Thursday, March 04, 2010

save bbc 6music

Believing themselves to be facing cuts in the years ahead, especially if the Conservatives come to power, the BBC got in there first. They hired one of the authors of the Conservatives' last election manifesto to do a report into the BBC.

He recommended a bunch of cuts, including the axing of two of their digital radio stations, the Asian Network and 6Music. The Director General just said he agrees.

6Music is the only reason I bought a fucking digital radio. If they close it I want my fucking money back.

The station has 620,000 listeners a week and costs £7m a year to run. That's about a tenner a listener. I'm sure half the listeners would pay 20 quid a year to have the station there. I certainly would. It's struck me many times as odd that the American model of small, specialist interest listener-supported stations isn't replicated here.

And just having an absence of corporate propaganda invading your brainspace is well worth coughing up for your TV license, so why not for 6Music too?

By the way, don't think that commercial stations are somehow free. Some time in the 90s I read a study that showed the average family of four paid more for commercial TV than for the BBC TV license, thanks to the extra cost on their groceries to cover the cost of advertising.

The BBC Trust complain that only 20% of adults have heard of 6Music. Well yes. It's a digital radio station. You have to have a DAB, listen online or be one of those people - if they really exist - who listen to the radio on their digital TV receiver. Stick it on FM and watch the listenership ratings balloon.

The Director General's report says 6Music 'competes head on for a commercially valuable audience'. Er, right. So now it's a big, commercially valuable insignificant niche.

Back on Planet Earth, 6Music is not in competition with any commercial station. The BBC Trust's own report shows 82% of listeners believe 6 Music offered 'something that could not be found elsewhere'. It's loved precisely because it appeals to people who want the unexpected, the intelligent and the weird, people who hate the corporate.

Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone plays experimental music from further out than anywhere else I've ever heard, and not as some gimmick but as an envigorated exploration of what music can do to us.

Getting passionate, informed presenters in like Tom Robinson to do the new bands show, or Bruce Dickinson to do the rock show, or Craig Charles to do the funk and soul show, leads to an unrivalled ability to discover new acts.

Tom Robinson's show alone has given the first radio play to well over a thousand bands. People who are now household names like Florence and The Machine or Amy Winehouse spent their early days doing sessions for 6Music.

Craig Charles' show is the most expensive I've ever heard. I can barely get through half an hour without having to go and buy some killer tune he's played.

All across the station's output there's a liberal dose of the BBC archives, a simply unparallelled stockpile of treasures. Every DJ plays Peel session tracks, and Gideon Coe's show is entirely comprised of old sessions, live concerts and other stuff, giving you new angles on artists you know and unearthing tiny greatness from people you've never heard of.

This archive, as Radio 7 also shows, is a gargantuan goldmine. They should stick all those Peel sessions and live concerts and stuff on iTunes, or create their own download platform. The cost of digitising would be minimal.

The Bowie and Queen type stuff would sell by the skipload, but there's something else. Everyone who loves pop and rock music has a few pet favourite artists they adore who are largely unknown. We'd practically soil ourselves at being given their unreleased BBC sessions in clear digital quality. It woulds surely only take a couple of downloads of any given session to cover the cost of digitisation.

Kinnell, there's my second (admittedly implausible, arguably beyond-remit illegal) fundraising idea for the BBC in as many minutes. That'd make more than the savings from closing 6Music.

There is a 12 week public consultation about their plans. The BBC have said they want to close 6Music, but BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons has also clearly said that if there is 'massive public concern' then the station can be saved.

Write to the BBC. It will make a difference. Here is how to do it.


pippo23 said...

Excellent points, eloquently made.

Paul said...

The BBC sometimes forgets it's there to provide vaspid light entertainment to the proles, and does dangerous things for a year before someone notices and shuts the door again. I'm thinking of SnubTV here. An alternative music programme playing Wofgang Press and Throwing Muses and The Sundays on Prime time BBC2.

I'd like to see them axe Bruce Forsythe and Jonathan Ross. Not get rid of them. Axe them. With an axe. Actually, how close to 7 million would the combined wages of just a few of their stars come to? For 7 million quid, I can get an entire radio station devoted to weird and wonderful music. Or I can get Russell Brand talking about his dinkle.

There's a parralel here between the BBC and football, no? Pay your top stars millions, and the whole edifice starts to crumble.

Catweazle said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Whatever you feel about the license fee, it allowed the BBC the freedom to meet the needs of groups whose tastes would otherwise be deemed not commercially viable. Remember too that beside the cost on goods of commercial channels/stations there is the priceless time and memory wasted on inane and subliminal advertising/sponsoring of shows.
I too enjoy BBC 6's Freak Show and BBC 7's drama output is unbeatable from Ballard to classic Doctor Who to M.R. James, alongside kids' stuff good enough to draw them away from the TV and into the arena of the imagination. Oh, I actually do listen through the TV! Sorry for rambling on but it does matter.