Why 6 Music Matters

Everyone now knows that the BBC Trust have decided, in their infinite wisdom, to axe  BBC 6 Music from their airwaves. Musicians, presenters and loyal listeners have been vociferous in their criticism of these proposals but should we, the licence fee payers, really care?

Well, yes. Yes, we should. 6 Music is as an important part of the Beeb’s cultural firmament as Radio 4. Marc Riley is as important as Melvyn Bragg. This isn’t a fanciful comparison – the presenters on 6 Music are amongst the best in business.

Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne, Cerys Matthews, Jarvis Cocker – the schedules groan with the weight of presenters unbridled in their enthusiasm for new and old music. They bring new bands to the fore, cast new lights on old artists, they revel in music. They instill a passion and interest in music in their audience which is no different to that instilled by Melvyn in his own rarefied audience by his discussions of Hegel.

So why don’t we get rid of Radio 4?

We keep Radio 4 because it entertains and it educates. As does Radio 3. As does BBC4. These are the stations that provide the BBC with their justification for the licence fee, they are widely trumpeted by Aunty as being shining examples of its public service role. They are all wonderful stations, generally with a select audience, staffed with enthusiastic presenters who impart knowledge on a receptive audience. 6 Music falls full square into this category – it is as important and worthy of protection as these other channels.

6 Music’s audience are music fans. But they are not the type of fans who only turn up at home games when the weather is nice and the traffic is light –  they are away-game-attending, Bovril-sipping nutters willing to gamble their mental health each weekend on the kick of a ball. These are the people you stand beside at gigs, at HMV, at Rough Trade Records. They are your friend’s friend who tells you about a new band. They are the lifeblood of music in this country. And 6 Music is their church.

The Beeb will tell you that 6 Music doesn’t have a sufficiently large audience to warrant its continued existence. This is disingenuous. The growth of the internet has meant that the Beeb’s audience has many, many other avenues available to it to obtain its music and entertainment – the Beeb should congratulate 6 Music on managing to bring so many disparate audiences to one station, to one form of cultural consumption.

The death of 6 Music would have greater repercussions than the silencing of weekend soundtracks across the land. Its removal is a statement of artistic value, of cultural merit. It is the Beeb telling us that there is no difference between Bob Dylan and the X-Factor winner. It tells us that music is not an art form worth trying to understand and explore, instead it is nothing but an aural distraction.

If Radio 1 (Aunty’s corporate offering) is allowed to continue polluting the airwaves with ‘music’ that seems to be composed for no other reason than to be listened to through the speakers of a mobile phone, then there has to be an alternative. That alternative has to be a station aimed at a passionate and musically informed audience. That station is BBC 6 Music.

The BBC are inviting members of the public to give their views on the changes proposed by the new strategy review.

Image by Adam UXB Smith courtesy of Flickr

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2 Responses

  1. judith littlemore

    This eloquently states most of the things I’ve been thinking.
    A major issue here is that we seem to still be one nation divided by an outmoded division between high and low culture, ask any Radio 3 listener how they would feel about the commercial sector catering to their demographic!

  2. L

    This is important It’s NOT the BBC Trust who have decided to axe 6 music they are the listeners only hope of it being saved – it is Mark Thompson who has decided, The BBC Trust are representing us and hopefully they will agree with us a keep the station.

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