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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It is not too late to send in your views on the BBC's so-called Strategic Review. For myself, I've been appalled by the proposal to close down BBC 6 Music - especially in the name of keeping the BBC's special strengths and dropping activities that commercial radio can do as well or better.

There's plenty of dross on BBC 6 Music, of course - there's the awful George Lamb and his sidekick (a pair of Niceys who give the memory of Dave Lee Travis an unexpected golden glow) - but more typical of it are the music-centred, good-naturedly humane and often quite witty programmes fronted by Gideon Coe, Chris Hawkins, Cerys Matthews, Guy Garvey and especially Shaun W. Keaveny, all of which fulfil the station's essential and worthwhile brief.

That is to say, BBC 6 Music has NO commercial equivalent, and cannot have. This is a station that plays a wide variety of new music, intermingled with enough older music to encourage a sense of music history. It plays far more music from new and unknown musicians than any commercial station would risk; it provides a unique outlet for the great wealth of performances recorded specially for the BBC by musicians of every hue over four or five decades - and for the most part employs as presenters people who actually know about, and like, the music they play and communicate with a direct intelligence rarely found elsewhere on the airwaves.

No commercial station offers anything comparable, and by the nature of the beast none ever will. If the BBC Director General wants to operate by the principles he has outlined, and to optimise the BBC’s special strengths, BBC 6 Music is the last thing he should axe.

And if they're trying to save money, axeing 6 Music will save only £7million a year - hardly more than they were paying Jonathan Woss until recently. (And the Director-General's own salary, which is over £800,000 a year, might be thought capable of bearing a bit of cost-cutting, come to that.)

Why not axe Radio 1 instead? Here is a cheap, tacky, completely commercially-oriented station on which overpaid and often foul-mouthed disc jockeys offer a recurrent barrage of me-me-me commentary interspersed with the shallowest, dumbest kinds of popular music driven entirely by considerations of commerce and addressed to a lowest-common-denominator audience of the very young and impressionable. In other words, exactly what dozens and dozens of commercial radio stations do all the time. It is absurd to keep this and close down BBC 6 Music.

You can send your views to


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. BBC 3 also seems to be channel targeting an audience that is well catered for by commercial channels.


12:16 pm  
Anonymous Carl Finlay said...

Hear Hear!!

5:11 pm  
Anonymous Bev said...

Too true. 6 Music is about the only channel where there is a chance I might hear something a) I've not heard before; and b) is good. As well as the DJs you mention, Jarvis Cocker's shows have been good too.

Surely it's part of the BBC's Reithean tradition to do this kind of thing? Something which, as you quite rightly say, no commerical broadcaster would. And it's nice to have a 'public space' without adverts too.

9:40 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...


7:25 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Bev - yes, the absence of adverts is another virtue I'd meant to mention in the blog.

9:24 am  

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