Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What do the BBC cuts mean for music?

So we've got some final answers about where the BBC cuts will fall, as the BBC Trust sign off the deal to balance the books after Rupert Murdoch's man in cabinet, Jeremy Hunt, issued a terrible licence fee settlement.

There's been most focus on the dropping of children's programmes from BBC 1 and 2, but there's a few details that might cause alarm to music fans.

First, the good news - Newsbeat is saved; or, at least, Radio 1 will only be sharing its news with 1Xtra; 6Music and Radio 2 will double-up their news coverage. And there's to be more music on the Asian Network (albeit offset by a drop in total broadcast hours); while BBC Four will get to make more music and arts programming part of its shift closer towards arts.

On the other hand, BBC Two will be making less arts and music - a drop of about an hour a week; and BBC Three will also be doing less music.

Radio 1 and 1Xtra are going to simulcast for two hours every night - it's unclear what that might mean for guitarry-type late night programming, but it seems more likely that the programming will be closer to 1Xtra than, say, the Punk programming.

The Radio 1 in the national regions opt-out is going to vanish, too - this was the programme that was originally The Evening Session In The Nations. It always felt, to be honest, a bit of an anomaly, but the various programmes were well-loved and were something of a feeder lane for bands to get sessions onto the network. The BBC Trust, though, looks on the bright side:

Although the restructure would mean losing the equivalent of four hours of airtime each week, it is likely that each new music track will be broadcast to a much larger audience
than currently (across the whole UK), and we take some assurance from the Executive's
commitment that the new programme is likely to have a higher proportion of first-play
new music each week (that is, relying less on music repeated from previous weeks), and
will seek to include artists from across the UK.
Hmm. Not entirely sure that's going to be very reassuring if you're a new act in Northern Ireland hoping for a start on Radio 1.

There's going to be changes to 1Xtra's live output:
We are also agreeing to changes to the balance of Radio 1Xtra‟s live output, so that it covers fewer, but higher impact, events. In approving this change we note that 1Xtra‟s live events expenditure will remain the same as now and 1Xtra will continue to put a strong emphasis on live music, as required by its service licence.

Radio 2 is going to do fewer live music programmes - In Concert will vanish as a stand-alone strand (presumably taking Jo Wylie with it), but there's still a promise that the network will pump out 260 hours of live music every year. "Many of these" promise the Trust "will not feature Keane." (Alright, they make no such pledge. I suspect nobody would believe it.)

Local Radio has had many of the threatened cuts rolled back, but there is still talk of an all-England evening programme. Which isn't, obviously, a local service at all. It's unclear what this might mean for local music programmes - elsewhere, the Trust offer their support to Introducing, but without suggesting when the local stations might get a chance to put bands on the air.

(Just in passing, Three Counties is going to be stopped from doing proper local breakfast shows, meaning people in Milton Keynes are going to hear a lot more about Hertfordshire than they give a flying hoof about.)

Finally, the number of video streams offered by Press Red is going to be cut right back - to just one at a time. In other words: the luxurious coverage of Reading and Glastonbury has just gone for a burton, and when there's sports on at the same time as a festival, you'll be bloody lucky to get anything at all.

None of these cuts, remember, would be necessary if it wasn't for a punitive licence fee settlement. The damage done by Jeremy Hunt will remain long after he's gone from public life.

1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...


I must admit to being worried about the 1Xtra/Radio 1 overnight simulcast, more from the 1Xtra end - its overnight output contains some of the rawest and most uncut music on legal radio in the UK, and is thus precisely the sort of thing that petty-minded little Tories would want to shut up, to keep out of "our" money, to keep in its ghettoes. I remember a particularly nasty Digital Spy thread where all the usual BBC-bashers called for Radios 1 & 2 to simulcast at night and 1Xtra to close down - effectively a BNP thread in code, and in many ways far more chilling than anything even on Stormfront (because people who hold such views about music don't on the whole *know* they're far-right or even think of themselves as far-right, but by God they are).

Presumably Charlie Sloth's current Monday night Radio 1 show will be simulcast on 1Xtra, which is fine because it's still essential (even if shortened by an hour from the Friday 1Xtra show he had before), but I would want all the simulcast shows to be of equivalent strength and potency for their genres, not just R&B/hip-hop-lite so as not to lose "casual" Radio 1 listeners to Capital or the Big City Network.

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