Today a leaked BBC strategic review to The Times brought the widely speculated future of the BBC’s 6Music DAB radio station into depressing clarity. As part of an effort to recalibrate its expansion so as to avoid cuts under a Conservative government BBC 6Music, the Asian Network and half of the BBC website amongst other broadcasting commitments will be culled following an announcement next month.
Needless to say 6Music, if said plans are brought into fruition, will be a great loss to its small but dedicated listener base. Of greater importance though, will be the conundrum faced by many independent artists thrown out into the cold from the welcoming cheer of a playlist that currently encompasses an impressive breadth of taste of Gorillaz to Goldfrapp.
It is worth at this point to bear in mind the reasoning behind the Beeb’s decision to close 6Music. The promised land that was DAB radio has failed to bear fruit in a way comparable to the license fee cash that was thrown its way. Asian Network, for example, is listened to less now than it was almost seven years ago, when only 158,000 DAB radios had been sold.
Similarly despite holding a passionate following, a recent review found only 20 per cent of adults knew that 6Music existed. For a station that will be hitting its eighth birthday on 11th March 2010 such statistics do not make pleasant reading. In light of such underlying problems when Mark Thompson, the Director-General, finalizes the future of 6Music next month his decision if highly regrettable will at least be understandable.
As has been pointed out by Popjustice, what is likely occur from the scrappage of 6Music is an overhaul of Radio 1’s playlist. Such a move is quite frankly long overdue and could have a genuinely positive effect on a station which (fact fans) costs the license fee payer only 0.6p per listener hour in comparison to the Asian Network’s 6.9p per listener hour.
Currently alternative music on Radio 1 has been largely confined to the post watershed output of Lowe, Stephens and Mac leaving the station’s shows with the greatest listener base to sag under the weight of a million and one identikit pop and rock acts. Under the proposed reforms Radio 1 would once again play host to a survival of the fittest approach to which artists make the cut.
Certainly with greater cross promotion expected to follow between 1Extra and Radio 1, the space for truly alternative artists between urban, pop and rock acts would be sparse but nevertheless space would once again be made for them. If the death of 6Music is not to be in vein, then these are the sort of provisions Auntie will have to make to placate a once settled audience into the ever crowded house of Radio 1.