Cult BBC rock show 'Later' set to become variety slot

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The Independent Online

The BBC is preparing to shock rock music fans by making changes to its cult late-night music show Later.

The BBC is preparing to shock rock music fans by making changes to its cult late-night music show Later.

Two radically different options are understood to be up for discussion. One would bring the show, presented by Jools Holland, to a prime-time spot and make it more of a variety show in order to try to get more viewers.

The other option is axeing the show altogether after its next series.

The latter option would infuriate rock music fans. Later is the only television show that showcases live contemporary music by bands that don't have to be in the charts.

It has built up a loyal following, but its average viewing figures are low, and the BBC2 controller, Jane Root, is known to be unhappy with that. She and the entertainment controller, Danielle Lux, are thought to be keen on turning Later into a prime-time show with comedians and other stars. Discussions have already been held examining the options.

The BBC claims average viewing figures of 600,000 for the show, though insiders say this is a high estimate.

However, despite its low viewing figures, it only costs around £75,000 per show, and since it came on air in 1992 it 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.

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 strongly against moving the show.

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."

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