Ah, people. Usually a source of great annoyance, occasionally something they do restores your faith in them. The news that the massive and unprecedented campaign to save 6 Music from the BBC axe has actually worked is one of those moments.
The BBC Trust today announced the digital music station will stay open. The trust said it was opposed to a proposal put forward in March by the director general, Mark Thompson, as part of a wide-ranging strategy review.
However, the BBC Trust said it would accept a formal management proposal for the closure of 6 Music‘s digital sister station, BBC Asian Network, provided that it included alternative plans for meeting the needs of this ethnic minority audience “in different ways”.
It said 6 Music was encouraging the take-up of digital radio among listeners, describing it as a “highly distinctive” service that represents “value for money” and is “well liked” by its audience.
The BBC Trust said there had been “significant public support for the service” and that 78% of nearly 50,000 online responses to a consultation on the BBC’s future focused on 6 Music. The trust also received more than 25,000 emails and nearly 250 letters about the station, “the great majority” of which opposed the closure plan.
It said BBC managers should be increasing 6 Music’s average audience of around 600,000 weekly listeners rather than shutting the station down.
The trust also said 6 Music does not represent a threat to commercial competitors. “Throughout the period of our consultation we have received no evidence from the commercial radio sector to suggest that 6 Music represents any kind of threat either now or in the future, so long as it remains true to its distinctive remit.”
BBC executives should consider the future of 6 Music as part of a wider examination of how best to improve the performance of its network of digital radio stations.
“The trust concludes that, as things stand, the case has not been made for the closure of 6 Music,” the trust ruled. “The executive should draw up an overarching strategy for digital radio. If the director general wanted to propose a different shape for the BBC’s music radio stations as part of a new strategy, the trust would consider it. The trust would consider a formal proposal for the closure of the Asian Network, although this must include a proposition for meeting the needs of the station’s audience in different ways.”
The BBC’s reasons for closing the station – namely, hardly anyone listened to it and those that did could get the same product elsewhere – were so transparently preposterous as to become faintly embarrassing. The station had suffered from a continued lack of advertising, demonstrated by a growth from 600,000 listeners to over a million in the quarter following the announcement of the review and the subsequent publicity. As for the service being available anywhere else, all the Beeb did was draw attention to how similar Radio One is to most commercial stations.
So a massive own goal averted and a victory for people. God Bless Britain, eh?