Thursday, 4 March 2010

BBC 6Music

Like a lot of people, I was pretty disapointed to read about the BBC's proposals to shut down BBC 6 Music as part of their 'strategic review'. Here is the letter that I emailed to the BBC Trust to add my name to the thousands calling for them to reconsider. I adapted it from another letter I saw on the internets (can't remember where sorry, probably linked from DiS) but added some more of my views etc. It's not brilliantly written, but I hope I got my message across coherently and I'm glad I managed to not slip into "you should get rid of Chris Moyles!" territory - a slightly elitist argument that just makes you come across like an indie/middle-class/Guardian reading/leftish version of the always hilarious spEak You're bRanes comments that litter the internet.

I didn't really mention the Asian Network as it's something I have no knowledge of, or interest in (if I'm being honest), though I'm sure it provides a fine service:

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to address proposals announced this morning which suggest the possible closure of BBC 6music.
On the whole I am a loyal supporter of the BBC and the licence fee, and understand that the way in which the organisation is funded places it under a unique pressure to appeal to mainstream and niche audiences alike.

I have been a semi-regular listener to the service since it was first launched in 2002, originally through Freeview and the Listen Again feature online, and more recently through DAB radios, and feel that the station has really grown into itself – the recent additions of Lauren Laverne and Jarvis Cocker to the schedule have further complimented the station.

It is my belief that this station fulfils a remit that the commercial broadcasting sector does not. The Strategy Review itself states that 6 Music "plays a wide range of music that listeners do not hear elsewhere and it introduces many listeners to music that is new to them", and the website - which compares unique songs played by various radio stations – shows little overlap between 6Music and it’s nearest competitors (such as the various XFM stations, NME, and Absolute). The same website also highlights 6 Music’s uniqueness when compared to the other BBC stations playing ‘popular music’ (which is itself an out-dated term, which fails to grasp the shear breadth of music falling under this banner). Trying to shoe-horn 6 Music’s shows and values into either Radio 1 or Radio 2 would mean cutting back on some of the programming which currently makes those 2 stations currently successful.

I also find it disheartening that the BBC, having spent the past 8 years encouraging people to upgrade their old FM radios to the newer DAB technology (which I did a few months back, at a cost of roughly £80), are now retreating from this sector with the closure of 6 Music and the Asian Network.

I understand that these proposals have to be considered and approved by the BBC Trust before any cuts are made, and so would like to add my voice to those requesting that the Trust strongly consider rejecting the call to close these stations. Their very existence proves the validity and necessity of both the license fee and the BBC, especially in an age when commercial pressure on broadcast media is stronger than ever.
Kind regards,


If anyone reading this cares about 6 Music then please email your concerns to the BBC Trust, and if you can find the time to fill out the online consultation response then that'd be great as well (I've not done this yet myself, but we've got 'till near the end of May to do so). Twibbon, #save6Music, online petitions, and Facebook groups are all lovely gestures, but you need to send the message direct to the BBC for it to have any kind of impact.

I noticed a curious semi parallel last night as well when I was reading an interview with Toby Whithouse, the creator of BBC3's Being Human - a programme highlighted in the BBC strategic review as an example of the success of BBC3.

The pilot episode of Being Human was first broadcast on BBC3 as part of a package of pilots designed to encourage new drama or something. Out of that package, it was a programme called Phoo Action that received a full series commission. Phoo Action was a kitsch, 60s style martial arts programme, from the creator of Tank Girl and Gorillaz, that was slightly reminiscent of the Green Hornet. However, it was Being Human that had received the higher viewing figures on broadcast, and more importantly it was Being Human that resonated with viewers. There was an internet outcry (which past me by, I never saw the pilot), and a full series of Being Human was eventually commissioned (though with a slightly altered cast).

The 2nd series of Being Human ended a week ago, the finale received viewing figures of 1million plus (brilliant for BBC3), and the format has been sold on to an American network for a remake. Phoo Action has, so far as I remember, never progressed beyond the pilot.

I think there's an important message in this for the BBC management to remember; sometimes the fans know better, and the customer is often right.

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