Better Later than never

Obscure bands. Small audiences. No wonder the BBC can't handle cult music shows. But they'd be wrong to mess with Later.

BBC director general Greg Dyke has problems with BBC2. It has, he said at the Edinburgh Television Festival, not yet forged a distinct identity. Yet one programme that has carved out a distinct niche for BBC2 audiences is, I understand, under threat. The future of
Later with Jools Holland, the late-night live music show, has been the subject of internal discussions among the channel hierarchy. Sources say that BBC2 controller Jane Root is unhappy with the low viewing figures (the BBC claims 600,000, though some programmes certainly get an even lower figure than that), and would like the programme to be less pure. She is known to want to mix the music with guest comedians and stars of other BBC shows like
League of Gentlemen and
Goodness Gracious Me.

BBC director general Greg Dyke has problems with BBC2. It has, he said at the Edinburgh Television Festival, not yet forged a distinct identity. Yet one programme that has carved out a distinct niche for BBC2 audiences is, I understand, under threat. The future of Later with Jools Holland, the late-night live music show, has been the subject of internal discussions among the channel hierarchy. Sources say that BBC2 controller Jane Root is unhappy with the low viewing figures (the BBC claims 600,000, though some programmes certainly get an even lower figure than that), and would like the programme to be less pure. She is known to want to mix the music with guest comedians and stars of other BBC shows like League of Gentlemen and Goodness Gracious Me.

Ms Root is known to be enamoured of Hootnannie, the channel's New Year's Eve offering, which has exactly that mix, and has wondered aloud to colleagues why Later could not do that on a regular basis. It could even move into Prime Time. The alternative, as some dissident voices in the corporation have muttered, is to look hard at the ratings figures and the Later audience which is solidly over 35, and axe the show in favour of a more youth-appealing dance music show. Some who have been involved in meetings about the show have heard senior channel figures question why there are so many obscure bands on.

Ms Root would not be the first to have problems with an intelligent late-night music show with low viewing figures. The Old Grey Whistle Test may be a fondly remembered part of broadcasting history; but it did not have the competition of MTV, VH1 and other dedicated music channels. And even the Whistle Test fell foul of the controllers in its day. More recently Channel 4 axed The White Room because its ratings could not justify its regular slot.

But to fiddle with Later would be a bad mistake, particularly when director of television Mark Thompson and others are prepared to say publicly that ratings should not be the sole criterion for BBC programmes. It is the programme's identity as a pure music programme that brings big names on to it, eager to play with new bands. It is the cult nature of its late night slot with "non celeb" chat that is purely about the music that holds an audience that may be small, but is knowledgeable and obsessive, and holds the channel in high regard for breaking new bands and keeping it up to speed with what is happening.

Part of the problem now facing the show is a matter of internal bureaucracy. It no longer comes under music commissioning, but under entertainment. The entertainment head Danielle Lux will have Later competing with her other entertainment shows, and its viewing figures will no doubt give her pause for thought.

But despite its low viewing figures, it only costs around £75,000 per show and since it came on air in 1992, has had a disproportionate influence on musical taste. It has given British TV debuts to the now world-famous Moby, to Macy Gray, Catatonia, Stereophonics, Gomez, Portishead, Coldplay, David Gray and Cornershop.

Bands like Radiohead and Travis make this one of the few shows they will appear on because they are likely to rub shoulders with a new band and Paul McCartney on the same programme and know that they are playing to a sophisticated and knowledgeable audience.

Later was created by the respected and award-winning BBC music producer Marc Cooper. He was away ill yesterday and unavailable for comment. But he is known to be averse to moving the show. And a senior colleague said: "Artists come on to Later because they know it is a music show. That gets Van Morrison to come on with Lonnie Donegan. Once you turn it into a variety show, they won't come on."

Bernard Doherty, publicist for the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, the Brit Awards and the Mobos, said yesterday: " Later doesn't get huge audiences, but the audience that watches are committed lovers of good contemporary music and it would be a tragedy if they took it off. Radio 1 puts a lot of people off now because it has become a dance station."

While sources say that Jools Holland has no objection to a prime-time slot, trying to move or, worse, even axe the show, would certainly cause a row within the BBC, and alienate rock audiences and the music industry.

A BBC spokeswoman said yesterday that a new series of Later returns in October and that series, beginning with a special featuring Moby, will go out at 10.50pm on Saturday nights. She added that there were no plans to move the programme from its current slot.

However, senior sources confirm that the future of Later is under discussion. Far from being axed, it may, of course, be earlier and bigger in a year's time. But in this case that won't necessarily mean better.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Graduate Consultant - Sales Recruitment - £35k ote

£18000 - £25000 per annum + £35k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for your first s...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Media Sales - Print, Online & Mobile

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing house has been ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Award winning Peterborough base...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?