Tuesday, 24 March 2015

What's really ahead for BBC Radio 3 ?

On Thursday, the BBC Trust published a review of BBC Music stations (full document here). So what really does the future hold for BBC Radio 3?

It's striking how much commercial competitors have had an impact on the Trust's recommendations. Hence "Action 9"  which recommends for BBC Radio 3: "While individual programme and scheduling decisions are for BBC Radio not the Trust, we think that the priority for Radio 3 should be to increase choice for radio listeners by maximising its distinctiveness and minimising similarities with other stations". What does that mean, translated into plain English?

Although it's essential that the BBC is up to date on the market as a whole, that does not mean that competitors should dictate what the BBC does. Rupert Murdoch might not like what the BBC does but he doesn't, as yet, decide the agenda. Thank goodness that the BBC Trust isn't making recommendations on news provision, or sports. "Distinctiveness" means many things. In theory one could interpret this as meaning more esoteric, adventurous programming, but that would go against the whole way BBC Radio 3 has been heading for several years.. Does this mean scrapping the whole policy of de-specialization, when Radio 3 is run by those who espouse the mindless pabulum of "Ten Pieces" and the like? So it's much more likely that what the "Action" means is that commercial stations get priority and BBC Radio 3 gets the scraps that Classic FM does not want. When Classic FM started, it wasn't competition for the BBC but now it decides what BBC Radio 3 can and can't do?

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, was until recently the boss at Classic FM, while the head of BBC Radio 3, Alan Davey, has a background, not in radio or even in music but as a bureaucrat at ACE.  There have even been murmurings in some quarters that BBC Radio 3's cherished bandwith be changed, which should also serve to kill Radio 3's competitive edge.   So what is the way ahead for BBC Radio 3? I should like to see a return to serious music values, and the integrity that made BBC Radio 3 great  because it is Britain's Cultural Ambassador to the whole world, a position even more significant with new digital technology. Classic FM remains, and will remain, no more distinctive than any other local radio station. Fundamentally,  it's BBC Radio 3 that should be ring fenced, not downgraded.  Public money has been invested building up BBC Radio 3, s it's not smart to prioritize to private interests.  The photo above is George Orwell, addressing The Third Programme. Have his predictions come to, pass?

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