Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The long fade-out: Mark Thompson proposes slow, slow death of 6Music

So, it's official: Mark Thompson is going round to 6Music and the Asian Network and asking them to turn the music off. Not straight away, though:

During the briefing Mr Thompson said the earliest 6 Music and Asian Network would close would be by the end of 2011.

It was reported on Friday that the two digital stations would be closed, after the report was leaked to The Times.

That's quite a clunky phrase - tomorrow, strictly speaking, is "by the end of 2011", but it seems to suggest we've got at least 150 more Marc Riley sessions to go before anything gets switched off. Which is something.

Meanwhile, the Tories - never having seen a bandwagon they don't want to clamber onto - have seen that 6Music is popular with hard-to-reach voters and performed another one of their pretty pirouettes.

On Friday, Shadow 'Culture' Minister Ed Vaizey was delighted at the news of the BBC cutting back:
Vaizey said the Conservatives wanted "a smaller BBC", but did not want "to beat up the BBC". He added that proposals to close digital stations 6 Music and the Asian Network and cut back the BBC website, reported in today's Times, were "intelligent and sensible".

Intelligent and sensible.

By yesterday lunchtime, though, Ed Vaizey had noticed that there might be votes in this:
MediaGuardian.co.uk can reveal that when challenged by an angry fans of the station, he admitted he had not heard the station before but claimed he had become an avid fan over the weekend. This was part of a public backlash over the closure of 6 Music, which included tens of thousands of supporters protesting via Twitter and Facebook.

"Having not listened to 6 Music, I took it on trust that the BBC knew what it was doing in this regard," said Vaizey in response to an email sent by a member of the public who took him to task over his support for the package of cuts.

"Several things have happened since I spoke out. I had no strong views on 6 Music on Friday, I now know it is brilliant with a passionate and articulate fan base – I am now an avid listener to 6 Music. I suspect that 6 Music has doubled its audience. I strongly suspect 6 Music will be saved."

Let's just pause awhile: the man who - in all possibility - may be in charge of the UK Government's cultural policy was running round on Friday applauding decisions to close radio stations he not only had not listened to, but knew nothing about.

The Save 6Music campaign might not save the network, but it's really exposed how rubbish the Tories' arts and culture team are.

The plans to cut back the size of the BBC operations, you'll recall, have been constructed with an eye and a half on the possibility of a Tory gorvernment, and Vaizey's repeated calls for the BBC to do less. So, having got us into the mess in the first place, and then celebrated the mess, now Vaizey's having second thoughts.


Francis said...

The full report is actually quite interesting and a lot of it seems eminently sensible. Spend more money on the quality of output and less on running the corporation.

As far as 6music goes - essentially it's admitting that for all the excellent alternative content it broadcasts, it's marginalised by being DAB only and is probably being spread too thinly. The bottom line is that it doesn't warrant the expense of a dedicated DAB station.

Let's be honest, they used to be able to keep us happy with 6 hours of Peel a week on Radio 1..

The suggestion is that they won't stop delivering alternative content and new music and that the best output of 6music wil be moved across to Radio 1 and 2 in place of the excessive pop/pap that is already served by commercial stations.

"The BBC will also review how some of 6 Music's most distinctive programmes can be successfully transferred
to other BBC radio stations, and how its support for new and specialist music can be sustained
across the BBC. Always putting quality before volume, whenever a choice is required"

And of course I trust them implicitly because they commit to:

"Placing the BBC’s values, and the need to earn the public’s trust through honesty and
integrity, at the heart of everything the BBC does on and off air"

Go on then

Anonymous said...

6Music was always going to be something of a loss leader as, without the offer of something new, making a switch to DAB is a difficult sell.

Thompson said "The 6music demographic will be served by commercial radio". Spoken like someone who has not listened to either.

I personally don't believe for a second that they're going to serve the 6 audience by getting Zane Lowe to spend slightly more time telling us how a-may-zing Kasabian are on R1.

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