6 Music backlash caught BBC off guard

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In the media world, 6 Music is like the radio embodiment of its listeners: intelligent, unassuming, perhaps not the life and soul of the party but the one who brings the best records and has the best chat. In other words, since its birth in 2002 it has quietly gone about its business, delighting music fans, carving out a succession of niche audiences and leaving the vain, attention-seeking to its brash FM cousins.

But if your average (Adam &) Joe hadn’t heard of it before last week, he damn well does now. I won’t bore you with the details that you already know, but last Friday the BBC’s latest strategy review was leaked to the media, and that included the proposed closure of 6 Music. Cue a response that was passionate, bewildered, anguished even, from its 700,000 listeners (who, as you might expect, are exactly the type of people who know how to make themselves heard in the blogo-twito-faceo-sphere.)

I added my own thoughts on the weird reasoning behind the announcement on Under the Radar earlier this week, but here I just want to run through some of the arguments I’ve read elsewhere this week. It’s safe to say that Mark Thompson wasn’t expecting such a vigorous backlash …

Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, from the band’s blog:

It literally is the radio lifeblood for music outside of the mainstream. Not to denigrate Radio’s 1 and 2, but it really is the only station that puts music first, and that’s from a punters point of view and not some bloke in a band. Nowhere else can you hear an archived session track from T Rex juxtaposed next to Midlake’s latest release. As David Bowie, put it … it keeps the spirit of John Peel alive.

Hear hear. And Milo at Gaseous Brain (he’s not in Radiohead but he still deserves a say!) has written a thoughtful dissection of 6 Music that points out its flaws but reiterates its worth:

It is literally the only station we use our DAB radio for, and if it is closed it’s hard to see why having a DAB radio is necessary at all. In fact, I would say the vast majority of people in the UK who own a DAB radio bought it solely to listen to 6Music. If it was on FM things might be different. If it was publicised properly by the BBC things might be different.

Matthew at Song, By Toad meanwhile makes a good point about the huge, unbridgeable gap between underground and mainstream platforms that would be left in 6 Music’s wake:

How the hell are you supposed to progress, to step up, to actually make that massive leap without the developmental step of 6Music, where you can start out with a couple of airplays on one show, maybe get a session on another, and hope to eventually make the step up to a Maida Vale Session and perhaps eventually some Radio1 airplay. Take away 6Music and you have to go from the Song, by Toad podcast to Radio1 in a single leap, which is not only a ludicrous expectation, but also makes the process increasingly arbitrary, because bands develop at different rates.

Nicola Meighan at The List wastes no time in the cultural, political or economic stuff. Instead she lists a succession of reasons and examples why it must be saved:

This week’s 6 Music schedule offers the following: Don Letts’ ace documentary series on reggae powerhouse Trojan Records; interviews with Gorillaz, Fear Factory, Broken Bells and Errors; Steve Lamacq’s pick of unsigned talent.

There are a few priceless videos kicking about as well. Have a swatch of Adam Buxton challenging Mark Thompson to a fight on Channel 4 News

… or Jeremy Paxman doing much the same (albeit in an interrogative sense) on Newsnight (complete with stifled laughter at the end).

Finally, this infographic by The Guardian illustrates the situation rather nicely.

Who’d have thought that 6 Music could provoke this kind of backlash? Not me. Or Mr Thompson, judging by the look on his face.

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