Friday, December 04, 2009

Andrew Harrison is doing a jig

Andrew Harrison, over at the Radio Centre, is delighted that David Liddiment is leading the BBC Trust's poke about into Radio 2.

(Just by the by, should Liddiment even be on the BBC Trust? He's a director of mega-indie All3Media; it seems a little odd that an 'independent' guardian of the Corporation, supposedly there to represent the licence-payers, has rather a major interest in a large supplier - and a delicious 2% stake in that company as well. It is declared as an interest on the BBC site, but still seems fundamentally wrong.)

Anyway, something must be done - for some reason - about the age of Radio 2's audience. Harrison goes into his usual fundamental misunderstanding of music:

Radio 2 should be able to utilise the advantages its £40m programming budget and access to national airwaves to provide a service that sounds, during all listening hours (not just in the evenings) unlike anything that the commercial sector would ever be able to provide.

It does, Andrew. It puts out a sequence of decent sounding collection of programmes made by people who care about what they're doing and knows what they're talking about.

Seriously, though, Andrew: you think the BBC should only be allowed to do something that "the commercial sector would [n]ever be able to provide"? Isn't that a little absurd, given that the commercial sector could, feasibly, produce anything it chose. Absolute could choose to create a programme which consisted entirely of the sounds of schoolchildren being dunked in vats of ice water, by cross-subsidising it with profits from advertising on the breakfast show. Your model seems to be a pretty hefty bar to the BBC doing anything.
But that is not the Radio 2 of today. Almost 40% of its music comes from the past nine years, with a greater emphasis on new music than pre-1980 output and limited focus on its older listeners.

What's with the desire to force older listeners off to Radio 2? If commercial radio had any heart, social conscience or business savvy, shouldn't they be focusing on a growing demographic sector who value radio, have money to spend and are being actively targeted by advertisers?

There's something a little unpleasant about Harrison's approach - 'we're not interested in the oldies, let them go to Radio 2, but leave the bright young things for us', but even if we accept that he has his reasons, you have to wonder at his confused belief that being a bit older means you only want to hear music from before 1980.

Given that "music from the last nine years" can mean Susan Boyle, Kathryn Tickell, Harry Connick, and so on, suggesting that a station should drive its playlist by sell-by dates shows a lack of understanding about how people listen.

More to the point, I'm now comfortably into Radio 2's target audience, and I don't want to hear a station which plays nothing but The Eagles and Patti Boulaye. My record-buying pattern hasn't yet shifted to only getting compilations from Time-Life Records, and I feel a little offended that Harrison thinks that a music station courting me should be playing only ancient records. His attitudes and understanding of the radio audience are as outdated as the playlists he wants Radio 2 to adopt.

1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...


I've recently had to deal with a *lot* of rather petty and insular people on the Digital Spy forums (slight case of tautology, I know) who seem to want to drag Radio 2's music policy back to the days of the Light Programme. One of them actually wants everything from the Beatles onwards to be only on Radio 1, and speaks in terms of bringing back needletime.

Quite apart from the other faults in their arguments, they render themselves particularly ridiculous by using Reithian phraseology and rhetoric to justify music which, er, was dismissed by Reith himself in exactly the same terms they use to dismiss current pop ...

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