Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The end of BBC 6music?

I will be the first to admit that I don't listen to BBC 6music these days as much as I would like. I used to listen to the radio a lot more than I do now but rarely have the time. Like most radio, I enjoy the fringes more than the mainstream. I choose Guy Garvey and Tom Robinson over Steve Wright and Chris Evans, purely on the choice of music they play. Same goes for Gideon Coe and Andrew Collins. Speaking of Mr. Collins, when 6music started (and I have been listening to the station on and off right from the very start), he had the afternoon show and I was not only a regular listener but an avid contributor. I was frequently emailing AC during the show, taking part and ending every one of my emails with the immortal request (nay, demand) P.S. PLAY MORE 10,000 MANIACS!!! Collins played the great band once and Natalie Merchant and co. (as they were then) really don't get enough air time. This was also a great attention-grabbing trick and immediately got me noticed. When Craig Charles (incidentally his funk and soul show is fantastic) sat in for Collins, he read this out only to provoke the response from the producer mumbling in the background: "he always says that...". It remains a highlight of my life, that and having my name read out a lot on national radio. But I digress...

BBC 6music has attracted wonderful talent, some that don't know what they are doing and most that do, some actual musicians and 'celebs', but also great broadcasters and journalists. Everyone from Bob Dylan to Phil Jupitus (who had a fantastic breakfast show back when the only alternative was Wogan, which is now helmed by Shaun Keaveny). Steve Lamacq is the closest thing we have to the late great John Peel, Lauren Laverne is proving she is more than just plain gorgeous, whereas Adam & Joe provide off-the-wall comedy and observations. Recently Jon Richardson has made a name for himself after taking over the Sunday morning slot from Russell Howard. For those of you that can remember that far back, this was the original Russell Brand slot, way before J. Ross led him astray... I hope some of the current line-up make it onto the core BBC radio shows proposed for Radio 2, as this quote suggests:

Radio 2 needed to "sharpen its distinctiveness in its range of music and speech" and while the quality of local radio should be increased, he [Mark Thompson] proposed sharing more programmes across outlets during off-peak periods.

The second part of this is quite worrying, not so much the off-peak bit but as someone who finds local radio lacking in quality and interest, I wouldn't complain if one of the presenters went local. But I doubt it would be my area and they would less likely be accept being 'downgraded'.

It is important to note that 6music is not the only casualty here. I would like to say that I don't care about Asian Network. I have never listened to it and I have had no desire to do so. This has nothing to do with anything other than my preferred choice of music and culture. But I can't help empathising with the inevitable backlash. The minorities are always the first to go. But is the end of 6music and Asian Network a good thing? Some have said that by diversifying the BBC have in fact segregated and pushed minorities (both racially and musically-inclined) to the sidelines and away from the mainstream. So what? I like being an outsider and liking music that none of my commercial middle-of-the-road 'obvious choice' friends like. But in some ways I would like the new music played on 6music to be taken up by Chris Evans and Mark Radcliffe on Radio 2 once in a while. The latter is very good at doing this by the way. 6music is an important outlet for showcasing new music, recorded and live. No way radio 2 gets close to this. I hope it will.

This is part of a much bigger strategic review of the BBC including scaling down the superb website and online services (BBC report). I hope the iPlayer doesn't suffer as much of my listening these days is after the event or via podcast (if the music is not the focus). This, obviously, has been a great development. But there is no substitute for sharing a radio show with other people as it happens, including the presenter (the worst thing the BBC did recently was to prerecord Ross's Saturday - or not - show); also something missing from the hapless attempts at people filling in for the talent at Christmas and the like. Live radio is a spiritual experience that just does not satisfy when you know that the person on the other end of the microphone is actually out shopping or spending time with the family. How dare they?

Anyway, this is the end of BBC 6music and I really do feel sad about that. Most of the time it feels like radio made just for me. When 6music started I felt part of something. And I still feel part of it. That is now going to end. Not for a while, but the end is inevitable.

So thanks to the BBC. Thanks 6music. And thanks Andrew Collins.

-- Chris.


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