Friday, February 26, 2010

6Music and the Asian Network must be saved

I'm wondering about the source for the Times' story on BBC cutbacks. Is it as 24 carat as Rawnsley's source for Bruiser Brown, or are Murdoch's henchpersons merely flying a kite? It would be a dark day for broadcasting and choice (Remember that? The thing that free markets were supposed to bring us?) if either 6Music or the Asian Network closed.

Even if you listen to neither, the fact that they exist is important. If we let either go, it's the thin end of the wedge. Pastor Niemoller's advice applies. When the barbarians come for BBC4, its viewers will be on our own. People who regard the licence fee as an acceptable tithe for civilisation, not an unfair tax, really need to stand out for this issue from the outset. Both stations are run on tiny budgets. 6Music is run on £6m a year. I'd love to know how much Big Top cost the Corporation. Is anyone saying "Don't make sitcoms starring Amanda Holden, as it's a misuse of public money if they tank"? Perhaps they should.

Quite apart from the Times' obvious bias, we also see the Grauniad barely able to contain its glee. That'll be the same Guardian that owns the Real Radio, Smooth Radio and Rock Radio brands, as well as the Guardian Unlimited online news service. Funny, that.

The BBC's critics seem very muddled. The Corporation can't compete with the commercial sector, nor can it provide distinctive niche services. What exactly can it do? Maybe it should start by growing a pair and saying "We're the BBC. This is what we do. Got a problem with that, Rupert?".


Robin Carmody said...


The idea that leaving everything up to the market produces genuine choice, rather than simply endless variants on the same (most lucrative and least risky) thing, has never been more blatantly discredited - even Radio 4 is a case in point, to some extent (re. Damazer in RT: 20 years ago it *did* have a programme, on Saturday mornings, devoted to Europe).

The Guardian's involvement in commercial radio really should be mentioned more. The fact that it is bound up with such banal, mid-Atlantic stations (I like the Motown show on Smooth Radio, but that's very rare indeed both in focusing on something that represented the creative, independent-minded side of the US, not the worn-out establishment, and in playing songs you *haven't* heard a million times) may well be connected to the fact that the paper itself is full of exploitative journalese and celebified nonsense. Again, we can read the tabloids for that. So again is choice *reduced* by market brutalism, becoming little more than an illusion - in the supposedly "monopolist" 1970s, if you wanted to read a paper that *wasn't* full of celebs and speculation about bugger all you had three choices, one clearly of the Right, one clearly of the Left, and one sort of in the Butskellite centre (Telegraph, Guardian and pre-Murdoch Times respectively). Today you have none. Everything most people think they know about now is a myth.

You know what made me physically ill? Someone on Digital Spy saying 6Music should be axed because its DJs have to be listed in alphabetical order on its website, as if no radio station can be of value if it doesn't have presenters who might appear in Heat. Mind you, that's pretty much the norm on that forum.

Tom May said...

Well said, both.

I have yet to hear any good reasons for getting rid of these digital channels. The same arguments are being put forward in some public-sector areas; the assumption that the Tories will win somehow equates to pre-emptive cuts now.

What is Mark Thompson thinking of, exactly? The prospect of a Tory peerage?

Robin Carmody said...

a propos the myth of "choice", it's hard to count the number of commercial radio stations over the last twenty years who have begun promising to do "something different" and ended up playing the same stultifyingly narrow range of music as the Hearts of this world ... it began with some of the early incrementals circa 1990, and eventually Melody Radio (not to my taste but I recognise it wasn't mainstream pop) became Magic, the Grauniad's own Smooth Radio network was carved out of Jazz FM and Saga (which latter filled the gap Radio 2 had left), and here on the south coast Wave 105 rapidly abandoned its original promise to play more album tracks etc. than the existing stations, and more recently Original 106/The Coast has done something similar (neither were to my taste anyway - far too consensually "quality" and early Q-friendly, but at least they weren't Heart). Ditto Virgin, which was surprisingly varied within its rock format when it launched (yes, really).

And that's before we even start on the stations that played music I actually liked: Kiss (which recently cut Logan Sama's excellent grime show to an hour, unlistenably frustratingly brief), Choice, XFM, Juice in Liverpool, that Brighton station whose name escapes me, and now the youth-orientated Oxford's FM (Oxygen as was) wants to aim at "over-45s" ... all this proves that a barely-regulated market doesn't produce anything resembling real choice, it simply reduces all stations to a narrow "ideal audience" that probably doesn't actually exist. Basically, if you're not a 38-year-old middle-income woman in Woking, you don't exist, you don't count, you don't matter. This is where the myth of the market becomes most blatantly obvious.