Just a few days after the BBC Trust said it thought 6Music was a good thing and should be preserved comes a nasty rumour that it's going to be axed anyway.
The Times is widely being credited with uncovering the story that 6Music, along with the Asian Network, Switch, Blast and half of future web activity is to be axed - although the death of 6 was first re-rumoured in last Friday's New Statesman radio column. The Staggers reported that:
. At a meeting in early February, the channel's controller, Bob Shennan, told the gathered staff that they had three weeks to wait before the wet towel was officially removed from its bucket to be wrung. (One imagines his gestures while speaking - fingers unusually honed from writing redundancy cheques.)
The idea is that the BBC will shrink to allow "commercial rivals" room to thrive, although it's not entirely clear which company is planning to create an advertising-supported programme along the lines of Marc Riley's, or the Freakzone. Or the music programmes on the Asian Network, come to that.
It's a bit like having Radio Five axed all over again, but this time with actual listeners to disappoint. (The loss of Five, taking with it virtually all BBC children's radio, proves the fallacy of believing if the BBC stops doing stuff, commercial radio will delight at having a space to work with - advertisers want markets, not gaps in them.)
Obviously, I love 6Music and don't want a station I enjoy to be switched off for no real reason, but there is a wider policy question here, too. There is an interest in shifting radio from analogue signals to digital, but most of the digital commercial stations have struggled precisely because it's very hard to fund interesting new services from the money you make selling commercials around it. If the BBC cuts back its digital-only radio offerings, and the commercial sector can't afford to offer much, why would anyone bother to buy a digital radio? Killing 6Music isn't just killing off a station enjoyed by half a million happy licence payers; it's effectively the end of the DAB dream.