Fans rush to defend niche radio stations

By Ian Burrell
Saturday 27 February 2010 01:00

Howls of outrage accompanied news yesterday that the BBC radio station 6 Music was heading for probable oblivion. It may have an audience of fewer than 700,000 but these are passionate people. 6 Music listeners are the type of fans who make endless lists of their favourite gigs or devote weekends to realigning their vast CD collections.

As campaign groups began organising on social networking sites to challenge the BBC's plans, one of the 6 Music presenters, Richard Bacon, went on the micro-blogging site Twitter to argue: "Here's my prediction: 6 Music will survive because of the scale but most importantly the passion of the backlash that's coming. 6 Music is a one-radio-station demonstration of the very point of the Corporation."

But it will take some saving. The BBC is under enormous pressure to rein in its ambitions and has been warned it cannot spend the licence fee on catering to every niche audience. 6 Music looks like a convenient sacrificial lamb, particularly after a recent BBC Trust report found that only 20 per cent of the adult population were aware of it, nearly eight years after it was launched by breakfast show presenter Phill Jupitus.

Current presenters include Steve Lamacq and Stuart Maconie, above, as well as music stars such as Jarvis Cocker and Elbow's Guy Garvey. But the station's reputation has been built not on a celebrity schedule but on a serious treatment of popular music. If it is closed, that approach will have to be incorporated into the output of Radio 1, which has an age remit of 15-29, and Radio 2, which was recently advised to offer more for the over-65s.

The other threatened station, Asian Network, has faced the difficult task of finding a formula that pleases all age groups. It broadcasts in six languages and some of its talk radio output has aroused tensions between Britain's south Asian communities. Adil Ray, who presents the network's breakfast show, pointed out that he was championing the singer Jay Sean in 2003, six years before he topped the US charts. "There's a certain connection we have with the Asian audience that you don't necessarily get in the mainstream," he said.

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