Image via WikipediaTim Luckhurst, Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent, was the guest on Richard Bacon's R5 show this week and spoke on the subject of the cuts that that the BBC need to make in order to meet the new budget restrictions. One of Luckhurst's solutions was quite simple, shut down Radio 1 and Radio 2. His arguments for this were various and well thought out, to massively simplify them he was saying that one the one hand, Radio 1 both creates and distorts the market for music in the UK which is not what the BBC is supposed to do, and on the other hand there is nothing that either station do that cannot be more than adequately covered by the commercial sector.
From the BBC Charter - "The Public Purposes of the BBC are as follows—
(a)sustaining citizenship and civil society;
(b)promoting education and learning;
(c)stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
(d)representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
(e)bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK"
Only a weak argument can be made that BBC Radio 1 fulfils points (c) and (e) which surely, considering the nature of R1, these should be the very things that a national music radio station excels at. Instead, Radio 1 is slavishly chained to the playlists, weekly song selections that are played on heavy rotation on the daytime shows and have a large influence, even in these days of a fracturing music media, on the make-up of each week's Top 40 Chart.
The charts themselves seem to be in a state of suspended evolution, the three main genres that have ruled the charts for over a decade, pop, RnB, 'Indie', make up the overwhelming majority of the chart each week and will continue to do so. Tracks are placed on heavy rotation weeks before their release creating a desire to buy in the listening public that then creates the charts that follow.
Music that does not fit in with R1's narrow daytime playlisting has become more and more marginalised, remember the Friday Rock Show ? It is now broadcast on Tuesdays at the highly unsocial hour of midnight until 2am, the old Rock Show slot is now taken up with yet more dance/RnB/drum 'n bass. If you are a heavy rock act, a folk outfit or a jazz musician, then your chances of getting airtime on Radio 1 are fairly close to zero.
My argument here is that I do not believe that the audience of R1 are as dull and unadventurous in their listening habits as the playlists and charts seem to represent. If a good track by a band whose genre falls outside the R1 norm were to get daytime rotation then it follows that their sales would increase and their chances of achieving a place in the Top 40 would be much enhanced.
Of course the BBC is highly unlikely to do away with it's two largest radio stations, even if cutting the costs of the highest per hour radio production costs in the UK were taken into account, the BBC is still far too concerned about audience numbers to risk culling what we are constantly told (on Radio 1 anyway) is the nation's greatest music station.