This is a guest post by LisaAB
6Music has been saved by the BBC Trust. Fantastic! Great!
A real cause for celebration? Not really.
In essence, 6Music provides the output which Radio One should actually be fulfilling. Instead, Radio One is chasing listeners in the manner of a commercial radio station: repetitive playlists, “out there” presenters, and a constant refusal to air anything during its day and primetime schedule that might appeal to anyone with the most basic of musically diverse taste.
If you wanted to listen to paint-by-numbers indie, commercial dance and dire pop music there are many commercial stations, which can cater for you. Radio One doesn’t need to do it.
Indeed, Radio One has a commitment to provide 60 hours of “specialist music” per week. In reality, this commitment is buried in the depths of the schedule, between 10pm and 5am. The only prime time nod to any specialist output is Zane Lowe’s evening show, which comprises mostly of commercial indie, rock and dance music, but throws up the occasional track of interest.
Radio One now occupies a space already filled by a plethora of commercial stations, pumping out the very worst quality music and programming, and is the aural equivalent of BBC3 – not, I’d suggest, a good thing.
It seems to follow that in order to appeal to a younger audience, you must also pick hip young things to present your shows. Everybody seems to have forgotten that John Peel was particularly popular with 19-35 year olds, and that Giles Peterson and Pete Tong (44 and 49 respectively), both known for supporting eclectic new music, have been pushed to the most unpopular reaches of the schedules. The one sole survivor seems to be Jo Whiley, who remains in a weekend slot, despite her obvious sycophancy and hideous presenting style.
Simply put, Radio One has abandoned its commitment to new and specialist music, playing it only when it’s sure no one will be listening.
Which is where 6Music comes in. Its own statement of programming policy looks rather dry and unimaginative, but actually, the station plays a mix of new and old, across genres, and commissions new artists sessions. Much of the new music is from unsigned bands. If you were to apply this programming to Radio One, you would have a radio station that truly did believe that it trusted in new music.
My only gripe with 6Music is that it has let its pendulum swing too far back – Lauren Laverne and Nemone are its only flagship female presenters (from a field of twenty), and isn’t exactly heaving with black and Asian presenters either. On balance, its output is of high quality, and isn’t interested in Fearne Cotton’s knickers, Peaches Geldof or Katie Price.
So what have we learnt? 6Music is great, but all that it is doing is what Radio One should already be providing. Sophie Heawood told us how she believed that John Peel would have loved 6Music. I have no doubt that he would have loved it. More to the point however, I think he would be disgusted at the debasement of his beloved Radio One.
By contrast, the loss of the Asian Network is not just sad, but a travesty. No other radio station provides either the breadth of music or the quality of programming. Other commercial Asian (or desi) stations provide only easy-listening output, mixed with some religious content. Just one show on the station, fronted by Bobby Friction, covers everything from new unsigned Bhangra, to music from Lahore and the Punjab.
Its loss will be felt not only by British Asians, but the South Asian diasporas worldwide. The Asian Network is listened to all over the world, which should tell us something about how unique it is. To remove the only outlet for these artists seems to me to undermine the entire premise of the BBC: to provide a public service which is not available on a commercial basis. The closure implies that the BBC doesn’t care about this station, and doesn’t care about cultural diversity and inclusion.