Is BBC 6 Music actually worth saving?

As 6 Music faces the axe, Pierre Perrone argues that it does not deserve to be saved
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The Independent Culture

I have listened to BBC 6 Music a fair amount over the last eight years and enjoyed the programmes hosted by talented, natural broadcasters like Gideon Coe, Stuart Maconie and Marc Riley, and raconteurs such as Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, Huey Morgan of Fun Lovin' Criminals and, more recently, Jarvis Cocker. But I also cringed when listening to the hapless Jane Gazzo and turned off completely during the dreaded George Lamb's tenure as a "female-friendly" chatterbox. Somehow, the station never felt distinctive enough to induce much loyalty on my part. I also knew too much about the way 6 Music was run.

I have been on the station myself, waxing lyrical about power pop or krautrock, in the days when Coe hosted a mid-morning show, When first visiting the place, I was amazed to find that, despite its claim to be employing knowledgeable presenters, 6 Music also had a host of producers on board. Surely, on-air talent should be picking all the music, not just having "three free plays an hour" as Jupitus, 6 Music's former breakfast-show host, bizarrely boasted last week? A comedian as well as a genuine music enthusiast, Jupitus proved a success but Lesley Douglas, the then controller in charge of Radio 2 and 6 Music, developed a fixation for supposedly "edgy" comedians like Russell Brand, whom she hired in 2006. She compounded her mistake when she transferred Brand from 6 Music to Radio 2 within months.

In nearly a decade, 6 Music did not develop much new broadcasting talent, unless they were musicians or comedians. In particular, it didn't train or feature authoritative female presenters, the recent arrival of Lauren Laverne the exception to the rule (though she came from Xfm and The Culture Show on BBC2). Too often, 6 Music became a dumping ground for disc-jockeys who never made the grade at Radio 1 – Liz Kershaw, Jayne Middlemiss, Nemone, the present incumbent of the afternoon slot on 6 Music – or who outlived their usefulness there – Dave Pearce, Steve Lamacq, the current "drive-time" presenter on 6 Music – though at least Lamacq was given a one-hour slot introducing new acts to Radio 2 listeners.

I sometimes wonder if, had he not died in October 2004, John Peel would have had to suffer a similar fate, shuffled off to 6 Music, a station that made great play of his old BBC sessions and supposedly reflected his ethos but hardly ever displayed the late broadcaster's breadth of knowledge and eclecticism (you rarely heard doo-wop or "world" music on 6 Music). Indeed, 6 Music provided BBC radio management with a very convenient excuse not to feature certain acts on Radios 1 or 2, and for not replacing Peel and further narrow-casting Radio 1 to a target audience of teenagers and young adults..

The media landscape has changed considerably since the launch of 6 Music in 2002. The introduction of the iPlayer makes every BBC radio show available for a week.. With more and more people doing their listening online, 6 Music has lost what little raison d'être it had in the first place. The station even shared two of its best programmes, Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, and The Record Producers, with Radio 2.

BBC management should be bold and take advantage of the closure of 6 Music, should it happen as announced, by rethinking its two most popular stations. Shifting Riley to Peel's old slot on Radio 1, putting Coe overnight on Radio 2, installing Laverne in rambling Dermot O'Leary's Saturday afternoon slot on Radio 2, and kicking tiresome Alan Carr into touch to accommodate Morgan or Garvey on Radio 2 would help restore credibility and distinctiveness to both networks. .

Now, let's see the BBC justify the existence of 1Xtra, another digital station costing even more than 6 Music – nearly £10 million a year – delivering only 530,000 listeners and playing contemporary urban music – 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas – already on the Radio 1 playlist.

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