BBC 6 Music may be revived under a different name, figures within the corporation suggested yesterday, after a high-profile campaign involving stars such as Lily Allen and David Bowie prompted a rethink on its closure.
Sources suggest it may be re-branded as Radio 2 Extra, keeping several of its current DJs, and much of the same playlist it does now. A BBC spokeman described the idea as "speculation".
The station currently costs £6m a year to run and has a weekly audience of 695,000. When BBC director-general Mark Thompson confirmed last month that a proposal to close the station had been presented to the BBC Trust as part of a bid to scale back BBC operations and allow commercial rivals more room, it was pointed out that only one in five people had heard of the station.
However, a campaign to keep the station open cited its minority status as justification for keeping it running rather than shutting it down. BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Chris Addison was quoted as saying: "6 Music serves a minority interest, does it? Then it's heartland BBC."
Last month 1,000 fans demonstrated outside Broadcasting House. The British Phonographic Industry has also protested at the closure, claiming it will block a much-needed outlet for new bands. The BBC has received 8,000 complaints over the proposed closure of the station. Only the "Sachsgate" scandal, and the decision to air the controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera, have prompted more. Several musicians have also expressed concern over the closure, including Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien, producer Mark Ronson and David Bowie. Conservative Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey initially supported the decision, but later changed his position saying: "It is brilliant with a passionate and articulate fan base."
The BBC Trust, the corporation's watchdog, regards the station as "distinctive and well-liked." Sir Michael Lyons, the trust's chairman, has previously admitted that he might ask Thompson to save the service if there is a strong backlash against taking it off air. Speculation about a reprieve has come a week after the station was nominated for seven Sony awards, the Oscars of the radio industry.
Lauren Laverne, its star presenter, received two nominations, while Jarvis Cocker, the former frontman of Pulp, was nominated in the "rising star" category for his 6 Music show.
Thompson's plans to axe 6 Music, as well as the Asian Network and some BBC websites, followed criticism of the corporation's empire-building and generous salaries for executives. Some 33 MPs have signed a parliamentary motion expressing "deep concern" at the prospect of the 6 Music and Asian Network radio stations being closed down.
The move to re-brand 6 Music will also see Radio 7, which features drama and comedy repeats, rebranded as Radio 4 Extra. The broadcaster already transmits mainly black music, on Radio 1Xtra and live coverage of sports events on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. It is unclear how much will be saved by tagging 6 Music on to Radio 2.
A public consultation into the planned closure of 6 Music is scheduled to run until the end of next month. A spokesman for the corporation yesterday said no decision had been made over the future of the station, adding: "There are no proposals for BBC radio beyond those outlined in the strategy review."