Like you I can’t believe the news I am hearing this morning from the BBC. 6 Music, one of the BBC’s best innovations in recent years, is to go along with the Asian network and half of its website. While I think the culling of the website is long overdue – and largely due to the fact that the BBC team were so arrogant that the site didn’t link out to other commercial media for so long – 6 Music going is a disaster. If you are a 6 Music fan then you don’t need me to tell you how superb the station is. If you have never heard it you are missing fantastic music, much of it brand new, played by passionate, erudite music lovers.
Can BBC 6 Music be saved? Well we have already heard rumblings from the private sector on how it could be resurrected. However I am very wary of Absolute getting its hands on 6 Music. XFM was an amazing ecclectic station until the Capital Radio group got its hands on it.
What strikes me though is how little joined up thinking is going on. I am sure BBC 6 Music, and other stations like it, could be run by the BBC at a fraction of the cost if someone actually seriously considered it. They wouldn’t sacrifice the quality of the content either.
The BBC though seems stuck on old media models – big station, big name presenters etc, which in the case of 6 Music don’t really apply. Also we know that the government is hoping to switch off analogue radio transmission sometime soon. There is also a question mark over the future of digital radio too. Bearing all this in mind here’s my plan for saving 6 Music.
1 Lose the DAB broadcasts – A fair chunk of 6 Music’s budget actually goes on servicing these (£0.4 million a year apparently). They do give the station reach, but aren’t worth the investment, not now and especially not in the long term
2 Focus on the internet – I am sure that a very large percentage of BBC 6’s audience has broadband at home (and at work too). The internet is a much cheaper and more efficient medium for transmitting audio – which is basically all BBC 6 Music really is. I don’t know how much the BBC pays to keep 6 Music on Sky and Virgin Media but I can’t imagine it is a great deal. BBC 6 Music doesn’t really have to be a live station either. It could be a series of podcasts that users stream which are updated daily.
3 Ditch the wacky presenters – One of the worst aspects of 6 Music was the way in which it aped the commercial sectors with presenters like George Lamb. BBC 6 Music doesn’t need need traditional radio presenters, it needs intelligent people talking passionately about music like Steve Lamacq and Marc Riley. It also needs lots of specialist shows like Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone. I may be wrong but I think it is these shows that are most loved by its audience.
4 Cut the presenters’s salaries – Sorry guys but playing music on 6 Music would be the dream job of many of the people whom listen to it. I am sure that many of the current presenters would work for 6 Music for minimal salaries, and if they didn’t there would be queues of talented people ready to replace them. I can’t believe that programming costs can’t be massively sliced.
5 Harness the community – There are now huge Facebook groups fighting to save 6 Music. I am sure that people would have great ideas on how it could be developed and restructured. The BBC should continue to give the community some kind of ownership of the station and once again they will become its biggest advocates
I really think this could provide the template for specialists stations that the BBC could run on a minimal budget which would serve small but passionate communities. If only the BBC could stop thinking like an old school media organisation and really try and innovate.
Ultimately I believe that mark Thompson needed a headline story to appease the rest of the media and in particular the Tories. In axeing 6 Music (while continuing to spend huge sums on salaries and buildings) he has once again shown how out of touch he is. can’t we get rid of him?