This is really two stories in one: first, there’s troubling reports flying all over the place that the BBC might shut down modern rock digital radio station 6 Music as part of their strategic review of digital services. And second, there are rumors that Absolute Radio, formerly known as Virgin Radio, could be ready to pounce on the left-for-dead 6 Music and buy it from the BBC – saving it from closing.
Officially, The Times reported today that BBC director-general Mark Thompson will close BBC 6 Music and the Asian Network, sparking a fury from loyal fans of the digital channels.
In a review of 6 Music published earlier this month, the BBC Trust said that the station should seek to increase its 695,000 weekly listeners, but ruled out any boost to its £6 million budget. The corporation’s response will be to close the alternative music station entirely, to the chagrin of the 60,000 people who have signed an online petition to keep it alive.
The BBC will admit that the average age of a 6 Music listener — 35 — is very desirable for advertisers, and the station unfairly harms its commercial radio rivals.
A BBC spokesperson said today: “Work on the BBC’s strategy review is ongoing and we are not commenting on today’s story.”
The Guardian’s Alastair Harper writes that the possible axing of 6 Music would be a travesty:
“6 Music does the same for a different kind of music. It’s the most mainstream avenue for outliers. With the exception of the always excellent but comparatively unknown Resonance FM, it’s the only place that small but inventive bands can get airtime. This is exactly what the BBC exists for: to ‘represent the many communities that exist in the UK’. To provide not just what the majority wants, but to appeal to all minority interests.”
Word that Absolute Radio is circling definitely adds extra spice to the news. The company’s chief operating officer Clive Dickens said that the company is optimistic about the station’s commercial structure, telling The Times: “We would buy 6 Music from the BBC, both the brand and the network, and we’d run it more efficiently than they’ve been doing.”
“The passion that we’re seeing from listeners shows there’s nothing wrong with the station, it’s just been overfunded. It would stand a better chance of succeeding if it was run commercially. It could be a complementary service that could be run alongside our own stations. It wouldn’t generate a lot of cash but it would serve a lot of fans who don’t want to be disenfranchised.”
BBC’s 6 Music is awesome, so it’s no surprise that thousands of music fans have begun signing an online petition to save BBC 6 music & BBC Asian Network. The hot-button issue is also blowing up on Twitter.