Either the top BBC management are incredibly stupid or they’re trying to be too clever by half — and, quite possibly, they’re both. Why on earth do they think that axing BBC Radio 6 and the Asian Network is a strategic course of action?
By its charter, the BBC has to primarily cover public service obligations that commercial broadcasters arguably won’t undertake but it also feels it can’t be too elitist if it’s levying a regressive tax of £130 per household for its services. Interestingly, the range of programming on channels like Sky Arts and, to a lesser extent, Classic FM and many US cable channels like HBO shows that it’s possible to produce commercial broadcasting that doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence. In fact the most crass, dumbest programming that can be viewed on any remotely mainstream channel (such as on Freeview) is BBC3 — inspiration of gems like ‘F*ck Off I’m Ginger’, ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’, patronising rubbish snippets of news presented by ‘cool’ presenters who no doubt got the job through their father’s connections down the lodge, repeats of ‘Eastenders’, various programmes where people film their genitals for an hour, ego-trip hagiographies of BBC programme makers (‘Dr Who Confidential’) and where the only half-decent programming is destined for BBC2 anyway. It’s almost entirely absolute total rubbish but is considered inviolable by the idiotic BBC management as it’s targeted at the sacred Yoof market — people who the BBC commissioners completely fail to understand despite their obsessive pursuit of the demographic. You have to end up watching Stag Party Channel on Sky at midnight on a Friday to see anything equivalently witless to the general rubbish pumped out by BBC3.
So this expensive pile of insulting crap remains untouchable whereas a couple of cheap radio stations that serve less fashionable demographics are to be wiped from the schedules. I’m not sure what the Asian Network has done to offend the BBC management so much. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it but it appears to be a more public service orientated station than its untouched equivalent — 1Extra. This would appear from its publicity to be focused on the sort of music that Radio One provides quite a substantial outlet for and pirate stations in London even more so — and it seems to address a far narrower audience than something generic like the Asian Network. 6 Music falls down because it’s meant to serve those too grown up for Radio One (surely anyone over about 13?) and those not old enough for Radio 2 (over 35s apparently). I thought the targeting of those two stations was simpler — Radio One is for single people and Radio 2 for marrieds or equivalents (just listen to any dedication that comes in on Radio 2 — it always mentions a wonderful spouse). At heart it’s a fairly serious music station, despite being hijacked by the egos of ‘look at me I’m a rising star’ merchants like George Lamb or that Lauren Laverne, 6 Music is playing the sort of slightly less commercial music that a public service broadcaster ought to play and the last thing that should happen is it to be closed down. Radio One is far harder to justify, as is Radio Two.
People have speculated the whole thing is a cynical exercise in creating a grass-roots movement to ‘save’ 6 Music — perhaps the BBC realised that the crass stations they want to preserve like Radio One and BBC3 wouldn’t generate such almost universal sympathy and goodwill? Yet, if they’ve been cynical enough to do this, they’ve only just drawn further attention to the rubbish that they’ve been too weak to consider touching.
All I can say is that they’d better not even hint that they’re threatening BBC4.