1. We know that even before the BBC’s strategy document recommended 6Music’s closure, the BBC Trust had asked for changes to the station. The Trust felt it should be playing less new music (down from 50% to 30%) and should be attracting a more diverse audience – older people, more women, more ethnic minorities. Perhaps mindful of the fact that previous attempts to diversify – the George Lamb affair – had led to accusations of 6 losing its identity, the Trust suggested changing the remit of the station to one celebrating “the alternative spirit in popular music since the 1960s”. (Previously there was no mention of ‘alternative’.)
2. We know that the strategy review recommends a big shift in focus on Radio 2, making it at least 50% speech-based in the day time and giving its specialist, comedy, concert and jazz shows higher-profile slots. This is to create greater distinction between R2 and commercial radio.
3. We know that the strategy of creating branded digital “sister channels” which allow more diverse and in-depth content is seen as a success. 1Xtra costs more per listener hour than 6Music but is not being threatened with any cuts – instead it will have “closer ties” to Radio 1 (a very dubious idea, but that’s for another post!). The relatively successful Radio 7 is being rebranded as Radio 4 Extra (R4 listeners are uncool enough to need the ‘E’ in Extra, apparently).
4. We know that 6Music as it stands has passionate fans, but we also know that at least until its existence began to be threatened, it was open to a good deal of criticism: the comments on this Martin Kelner piece, from only a year ago, are especially interesting partly because very few are from 6 Music listeners saying how wonderful it is – most agree that changes are badly needed.
So taking all these things together, one really obvious course of action suggests itself: push through the changes suggested by the Trust anyway and rebrand 6Music as Radio 2Extra.
This would have the following benefits:
- continue to make the BBC’s radio channel strategy more coherent and justifiable.
- preserve the good elements of 6Music – specialist shows like Craig Charles and Stuart Maconie, their live and session broadcasts, etc.
- raise awareness of 6Music/2Extra among listeners to the biggest radio station in the UK.
- widen the channel’s non-new music programming away from its current comfort zone of the post-punk and indie eras and make it think a bit more widely about what “alternative” might mean to different and more diverse audiences.
- give 2 Extra a distinct music-based identity compared to the more speech-led identity of Radio 2 proper.
- lower the listener cost per hour over time by using 2 Extra as a seed for formats, presenters etc. on its sister channel.
So simple! I bet they’ll end up actually doing something like this so I thought I’d blog about it now.
And while they’re at it they could nick all of Resonance’s best programming for 3 Extra too ;)