The campaign to save BBC 6music has been covered before on Sonic Fiction but I will give an in-depth look at the reasons why it should be saved and why cutting it will not help the BBC’s budget problems.
Many doubters have voiced that 6music is not worth saving as it is not as niche or unique as it pretends. However, from the off it became the BBC’s dumping ground for music that wouldn’t get played on their other radio stations, specifically Radio 1. In fact, 6music has provided ‘a very convenient excuse not to feature certain acts on Radio 1 or 2 and for not replacing (John) Peel and further narrow-casting Radio 1 to a target audience of teenagers and young adults.’ This is obvious to anyone familiar with 6music’s content but an important fact to consider. Many acts that would not normally have an outlet for exposure get featured on 6music and it, in comparison to commercial stations, remains true to Peel’s philosophy of establishing meaningful relationships with audiences where the music is a vital component.
Presently commercial radio DJs are already a familiar personality, most likely from television, who read from scripts with the shows’ music chosen and pre-programmed by a producer. It is unknown if BBC 6music is scripted but the personalities of the presenters shape shows, the majority of which were relatively unknown prior to 6music until DJs like Lauren Laverne and George Lamb joined, presumably to stay in line with the broadcaster’s policy of employing well known faces for their stations.
BBC 6music provides a service that uses the learned skills of its presenters and introduces audiences to commercially unknown artists and even the daytime shows play music new and old that wouldn’t get heard elsewhere alongside the quota of chart acts. Its critics conveniently overlook the diverse and incredibly strong night-time schedule which features Stuart Maconie’s ‘Freak Zone’, shows dedicated to live music, the 6mix featuring regular eclectic variety of guests. The station triumphantly covers many music genres without diluting its message and brand. Though the BBC has deemed that its listeners are catered for by its other services, without 6music these non-mainstream artists would not be featured on radio, unable to compete with major label plugging and promotion and listeners with a desire to hear these artists would be forced to hunt for them or go without.
The corporation will gain little financially from closing down 6music. For the £9 million overheads the result is an expertly presented gateway for left-field artists to reach new listeners. Not so for the white elephant that is BBC Three. £115 million is spent on producing trash TV on level (or a low) that even ITV and satellite channels struggle to keep up with. Add in a taxi bill of £14 million, an annual overspend of £100 million, the ridiculously expensive and inappropriate adverts for Radio 1 that were mentioned in a previous BBC 6music post and the oversized wages paid to its stars and it quickly becomes clear that targeting 6music is indefensible. Lest not forget that the BBC is a publically funded corporation and therefore it has a duty to provide for all TV licence payees and if they deleted a service, such as BBC Three, that viewers can increasingly easily find on other channels the debt would be cleared with just one action that would cause little complaint.