In the week that the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber said it was “almost irrelevant” to describe the work of modern composers as “classical” music, a report from the BBC Trust into the BBC’s music radio stations is timely.
In assessing the performance of Radio 2, Radio 3, and 6Music, the report implicitly raises similar questions about genres, categories, and the difficulty of drawing lines between one station’s output and another’s. And it is in this context that one has to consider the role of Radio 3 – that most venerable of the BBC’s stations.
Radio 2 and 6Music are the big success stories of BBC radio’s recent years – and it is in their shadow that venerable Radio 3 has begun to toil. Last year 6Music’s audience share overtook Radio 3’s even though 6Music is a digital-only service. It’s the enthusiasm and the discernment with which 6Music reflects the range and diversity of pop’n’rock that is so striking. To listen to 6Music is to realise that “high-brow vs low-brow” is a debate that no longer has any meaning, and that in some ways it can claim to be the new Radio 3. The modern music consumer can happily switch between the two, occasionally coming across the same sounds on both stations.
This leaves Radio 3 facing a challenge. Certainly the BBC Trust’s recommendation that the station shed all aspects of its output that might be available on Classic FM made for welcome reading, because the last thing it should be doing is trotting out old favourites in order to sound like something else. That’s not to say we want a wilfully obscure Radio 3, just a thrillingly eclectic one that both guards the classical tradition and builds a new one through the sheer intelligence and originality of its output.Reuse content