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Music industry groups say cuts to BBC Introducing local radio shows would be “fundamental blow to the health of the entire grassroots sector”

By | Published on Wednesday 18 January 2023

BBC Music Introducing

A plethora of music industry organisations have written an open letter to the board of the BBC seeking reassurance that BBC Music Introducing does not become an “unintended victim” of any changes being made to ensure the “future stability and viability” of the broadcaster. The letter is in response to cutbacks at the BBC’s network of local radio stations which are set to impact on the local BBC Introducing programmes.

Based on plans announced last year, the Beeb’s local radio stations around England will start sharing regional programmes for chunks of the day, with a single show across all the stations each weekday at 10pm. Which, of course, means fewer programmes being made overall and fewer presenters and producers making them.

The changes are partly about saving money, with the BBC having to find savings due to its licence fee funding being frozen, although it’s also partly about diverting more resources to the Corporation’s local operations online.

BBC Introducing is the broadcaster’s long-standing scheme for supporting new and grassroots music talent, of course. At the heart of the whole thing are 32 local BBC Introducing shows aired on the local radio stations.

Each local show provides a direct connection to a different local music scene, supporting that scene and identifying new talent that is emerging within it. That work then informs the other BBC Introducing shows that appear on the Beeb’s national stations.

If the outcome of the current changes to BBC local radio is a smaller number of regional BBC Introducing shows replacing the current 32 local shows, it’s feared those connections will be lost.

The new open letter to the BBC board, organised by the Music Venue Trust and signed by numerous music industry organisations, especially those on the live side of the business, states: “Our work includes consideration of the impact of third party agency decisions on the health, resilience and sustainability of the grassroots music ecosystem”.

“We are writing to you today to express our grave concerns about the current uncertainty surrounding the future of BBC Introducing”, it adds, “the network of programming across the country which throws a spotlight on local and regional artists, venues, communities and music”.

“BBC Music Introducing is a fundamental cog in the machine of the grassroots sector”, it explains. “Its network of radio shows across the UK support new and developing music at grassroots level, through local shows on stations across England and the Channel Islands and flagship programmes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”.

“These 32 shows support local artists with local airplay, interviews and sessions and are deeply engaged with local grassroots music venues. They are presented and produced by people with a deep knowledge of local and regional music. They provide local gigs, festival stages and outside broadcasts alongside promotion and awareness raising”.

“This work is not done by any other broadcaster; it is unique. Its reach extends to every corner of the country and it is especially important in left behind communities, where access to music and music opportunities is already incredibly challenging”.

“BBC Introducing is a prime example of what the BBC does best that no other broadcaster can do. BBC Introducing programming directly addresses the core aims of the BBC, acting in the public interest, serving all audiences and delivering impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”.

Honing in on the incoming changes, the letter goes on: “Despite this, we understand that the entire network of presenters and producers has been placed on notice of potential redundancies, and that the programmes they create may be under threat as a result of wider cuts to the BBC’s network of local radio stations”.

“We want to impress on you very strongly that this would be a fundamental blow to the health of the entire grassroots sector. New and emerging artists already face significant obstacles to breaking into the music industry, challenges that are amplified for those artists and musicians living outside of the major cities”.

“BBC Introducing has been essential in providing access routes into the industry, with local and regional opportunities available right across the country. Whatever reorganisation might be required to meet the demands of the future stability and viability of the BBC, it should not be the case that BBC Introducing is the unintended victim of those changes”.

The letter then concludes: “Please can we have your urgent assurance that you and the BBC board understand the vital role of BBC Introducing. We would like to hear how you plan to protect it for the future, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you how it can be developed, enhanced and improved to achieve even more for the communities it serves”.

The organisations signing the letter include the Music Venue Trust, Production Services Association, Association Of Independent Promoters, Association Of Independent Music, Featured Artists Coalition, LIVE, Music Managers Forum, British Association Of Concert Halls, Entertainment Agents Association, Association Of Independent Festivals, Concert Promoters Association, The Society Of Ticket Agents And Retailers, and National Arenas Association.

Musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson – who hosts one of the national BBC Introducing shows – has also set up a form on his Fresh On The Net website where artists and music fans can express their support for their local BBC Introducing show. You can access that here.