"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Sunday, 28 February 2010

An Open Letter To BBC DG Mark Thompson

Dear Mr Thompson,

I cannot adequately express how angry I am at the decision to axe 6 Music. Then when I read the reasons behind it, I fly into a rage at an even higher orbit.

If correctly reported your reasons for getting rid of the station are three fold:

1. You need to save money.
Is 6 Music really that expensive? If cuts need to be made why not start with BBC 3, hardly anyone has a good word for it outside of, er, well, the people at BBC 3. Yes, I know what you are going to say - "Gavin & Stacey". But surely if you want to try an untested new comedy programme you have BBC 2, the nursery of many brilliant and popular comedies that then found a home on BBC 1. The crass, lowest common denominator, bottom of the barrel programmes on BBC 3 ("My Life As An Animal" - seriously, what was going on there?) far out way the good, creative worthwhile programmes. How much more expensive is BBC 3 compared to 6 Music? You do the math.

2. Very few people know about the station and even fewer listen to it.
Well, whose fault is that then? While I'm inundated with trails for dancing celebrities and Eastenders, I do not see or hear any promotional trails for 6 Music outside of the station itself. I've seen huge posters in the streets for Chris Moyles, one single DJ on a radio station that everyone already knows about, but again nothing for 6 Music, an entire radio station. If 6 Music isn't getting the audience you wish it did, then I think you need to take responsibility for that one. And this is a situation that can be corrected simply by doing the right promotion.

3. Commercial radio will fill the gap.
This is the biggest mistake of all. No, commercial radio will not fill the gap. You and I both know how the commercial sector works. First they promise all kinds of wonderfully different and alternative listening to anything else that is out there currently. Then after a very short while, when they don't get the numbers of listeners they dreamed of and they never do, they panic and change to a much more mainstream sound. Eventually after a few name changes and take overs, there's no one left at the commercial station who knows anything about why the station was set up in the first place. All commercial radio sounds the same in the end, that is the fact of the commercial sector and should 6 Music be sold off into that sector then it too will go the way of all the other well intentioned radio stations in the market.

Surely, 6 Music is providing a public service by playing new and sometimes challenging music that is ignored by all the other stations, exactly what the BBC is meant to provide and does so well. If there is a BBC radio station that has a chance to survive and maybe thrive in the commercial sector it is Radio 1. Would I be correct in assuming that Radio 1 takes up more of the license payers money than 6 Music?

The plan to axe 6 Music is neither logical under your own criteria, or sensible. Having worked in radio myself, I know full well what happens in these situations. A show or station gets the axe. Loads of people complain. The complaints are ignored (after all, what do we know, we're only listeners?) and when the dust settles we all get on with our lives. But every time this happens we're all left just that little bit poorer for it. Except these days we all have the technology available to us to turn that hurt back to where it originated. Now we don't have to turn on the radio to hear the music we want (indeed, 6 Music aside, I can't hear the music I want on radio now anyway), instead we all have access to our own music libraries on our phones and on i-Pods. As radio increasingly fails to provide listeners with what they want, they will rely on technology to by pass radio altogether.

Perhaps that's your plan, after all you would save the BBC loads of money if you didn't have to bother making radio programmes at all.

In November 2002, the British public voted to find the Greatest Briton of all time. At 44 it was John Logie Baird, the inventor of television. At 43 it was John Peel. Chris Moyles was not in the top 50. Or the top 100. Actually, he didn't feature in it at all. What does that tell you Mr Thompson? There's a message there and I'm sure that even you can grasp it.

Please do not make the same mistake with 6 Music that Dr Beeching did with the railways, a decision we're all having to pay for now. Save 6 Music, otherwise, shame on you, shame on you.

Gary Smith

If you feel that 6 Music should not be axed by the BBC then please sign the peition http://www.petition.fm/petitions/6musicasiannet/1000/ and complain to the BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/

Thank you.

Suggested listening: 6 Music http://www.bbc.co.uk/6music/


  1. I sent the above as an e-mail to a number of people at the BBC including the BBC Trust who have now responded saying the following:

    Thank you for contacting the BBC Trust, the governing body of the BBC, with your concerns about the future of the radio station 6Music.

    As you may be aware, the proposal to close the station has come from the Director-General Mark Thompson as part of a wide ranging review of the BBC’s future strategy.

    In July last year the BBC Trust challenged the Director-General to address questions about the scope of the BBC’s activities, focusing on how the BBC can most effectively deliver its public service mission and meet audience needs as well as deliver value for money. The full strategy, which is now available on the Trust’s website, is the Executive’s response to this challenge.

    As part of his proposals to the Trust, which are focused on increasing the quality of the BBC’s output and setting a new direction for the BBC, the Director-General has proposed closing 6Music. The Trust is now consulting on all of these proposals, and we welcome your views.

    We will of course take your email as a contribution to our consultation. Should you wish to know more about the overall strategy review and our public consultation, there is more information on the Trust’s website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/strategy_review/index.shtml

    To be clear, a decision on whether or not to close 6Music will need to be made by the BBC Trust and we will consider any formal proposal to do so very carefully.

    Our consultation is open until 25 May 2010.

    BBC Trust Unit