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Monday 1 March 2010

Radio, Radio.

There has been much speculation over here in the UK about the BBC trying to reduce it's costs & how it might go about doing that.
One of the most predicted ways for this to be achieved, is for the BBC to pull the plug on two of it's digital radio stations, 6Music & Asian Network.
Both of these radio stations are considered to be "niche" stations & therefore not for the masses. But, does this mean that they should be culled?

Personally, i think the fact that they are "niche" radio stations, is a very good reason for them to stay broadcasting. Far too often these days, there appears to be very little choice when it comes to listening to music on the radio. Well, here in the UK anyway.
Most radio stations all sound the same & that problem has only got worse over the past few years.

What makes stations like "6Music" & "Asian Network" stand apart from the competition, is that the DJs are often knowledgeable music fans & not "personalities" trying to sell themselves. They love their music & it shows. They are also often allowed a lot of free choice in the music that they play. This is something that rarely happens elsewhere. This helps to give these particular radio stations more variety & originality than others.
Specialist does not have to mean boring. It won't appeal to everybody. But, it's not really meant to.

Most UK radio stations are now owned by a few big media companies. This means that their "output" is often shared by many stations. The same song, being played at the same time, across many different regional stations. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of this.
This is the reason that radio in the UK can often be so bland & boring.

One of the main criticisms about the BBC, is often the fact that it is publically funded & therefore has an unfair advantage over its commercial rivals. Some people see the licence fee as a tax & a tax for something they might not use, or even want to use. This is a very valid point & one that does need to be looked into.
But, the BBC is also supposed to be a public service broadcaster & in my opinion that is exactly what the BBC is doing by having radio stations such as "6Music" & "Asian Network".
Without this public funding, we could lose these "niche" stations forever.

It wasn't long ago that the UK very nearly lost it's only national classic rock radio station Planet Rock.
Thankfully, due to public pressure, some new Rock Music loving investors came along & saved the station. This is what can easily happen in the cut throat world of commercial radio.
Is that what we want to happen to all of the original music stations out there? I certainly hope not.

There has already been a public outcry about the possible loss of these BBC stations, especially, "6Music". A Save 6Music Facebook page has already been set up & now has over 75,000 fans.

One of the criticisms of "6Music" is the fact that it has "only" 700,000 regular listeners. Ironically though. i suspect that all of this extra publicity about the potential loss of the station has helped to increase those listening figures by quite a lot. That can only be a good thing. I must admit that i've started to listen to "6Music" again, after a fairly long gap & i've enjoyed what i've heard too.

Whilst some people are crying out for "6Music" to be axed, i haven't heard any of those same people saying that we should shut down newspapers that have a circulation of under 700,000. There are even other BBC radio stations with less listeners. But, possibly because they are Classical Music stations, they are never threatened. Strange that....

One other aspect of this whole situation is the fact that both of these threatened BBC radio stations are Digital Radio Stations. Apparently, only 20% of the UK population was even aware that "6Music" existed & thereby hangs a tale!

Digital radio has been promoted & sold as a great new future for radio listening. But, the truth is that it has just not taken off in the way that was expected.
Part of the problem for that is that parts of the UK still cannot actually receive digital radio, due to the patchy signal coverage. If people can't even hear these new radio stations, it's hardly surprising that they either haven't heard of them, or don't listen to them.
Also, potential listeners have to buy a new & often more expensive, radio to listen to these new stations. Many people just can't afford to do that & many others simply refuse to do so. And who can really blame them?

Digital radio & even digital TV for that matter, really needs a radical rethink, before it's too late.
Let's hope that this whole situation provokes a debate about the general state of radio in the UK & also a, much needed, discussion about digital radio.

There are already dates for the switch off of the analogue TV signals in the UK & no doubt, dates for the switch off of the analogue radio signals will not be too far behind.
Once those analogue signals are turned off, there is no turning back.
If & when the analogue radio signals are turned off, many excellent radio stations will cease to exist, forever.
Are we really prepared to let that happen?

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