This week it’s been hard to move for news and comment about the BBC’s Strategy Review, and, in particular, the plans to close digital radio station 6music.
And there have been a lot of emotionally charged calls for the BBC to save 6music. But I am a cold and unemotional creature. I was quite happy for Abbey Road to be turned into a kebab shop and I don’t think any band should reform ever. If something’s done with and served its purpose, it should be allowed to die. But 6music is not done with, and it’s still very much in the process of serving its purpose. So, for that matter, is the Asian Network, which is also earmarked for closure.
The BBC tell us that it wants to make cuts in order to focus more on “high quality programming”. Which sounds nice, but actually says very little. You might as well say you want to make programmes that feel more sticky. Plus, you could just as easily find money for more high quality programming by cutting the budgets and number of staff on things like Chris Moyles’ Radio 1 show, which have far too much of both. It makes no sense to completely cut services that are both high quality and incredibly important to their listeners, who are underserved elsewhere in broadcast media.
Also, we’re told that the BBC needs to give its commercial rivals a chance. If that’s the case, why aren’t they closing down Radio 1? And since when is competition a bad thing? Yes, the BBC receives its funds in an unusual way, but that doesn’t mean commercial services can’t produce better material than they can. If the entire BBC shut down tomorrow, would Sky suddenly start making programmes that were actually watchable? Somehow, I don’t think the BBC’s existence is what’s holding Sky back in that area.
And who exactly are these rivals who would thrive if 6music closes? Xfm and NME Radio are cited by some, but these stations do not serve the same audience. Because they’re funded by advertising, they have to go for the more lucrative youth market, with 6music’s listeners more likely to be in the thirty-something bracket. In fact, even Xfm’s Eddy Temple-Morris has called for 6 to be saved (see here).
While it’s true that the BBC could make significant savings in a variety of areas, and use the licence fee more efficiently, the cuts put forward just do not, er, cut it. But all is not lost, the BBC Trust still have to approve these proposals. You should tell them why they shouldn’t, and you can do that right here.
Okay, lengthy rant over, sorry. You can follow CMU’s coverage of this story as it develops here.