RadioCentre big up 6, though happy for it to be merged with Radios 1&2

By | Published on Thursday 10 June 2010

Commercial radio trade body RadioCentre has told the BBC Trust that it reckons digital station 6music has “distinctive and unique programming [that] must be preserved”; though before Save 6 supporters get too excited, the commercial types aren’t especially lobbying for 6music to remain as a stand alone station, but rather that the digital service’s programmes be incorporated into the Radio 1 and 2 schedules, which is what BBC managers have already proposed in their misguided Strategy Review.

Of course, it’s the more populist Radios 1 and 2 that commercial radio types don’t like, because it’s those national BBC stations that directly compete with their services. While commercial radio bosses would have no problem whatsoever with 6music continuing in its current form, the thought that 6-style shows be slotted into the Radio 1 and 2 schedules also appeals, because it would increase the amount of niche programming on those two channels, making it harder for them to compete with the Hearts and Magics and local FM stations in the commercial sector.

In its written response to the BBC’s plans for revamping its radio output (plans which include the proposed closures of 6music and the Asian Network), RadioCentre, unsurprisingly, call for more to be done to stop Radios 1 and 2 competing with commercial rivals. Even if 6music’s output was swallowed by the two bigger BBC stations, meaning more niche programming in their output, commercial radio types would still want more changes at the big two.

According to Radio Today, RadioCentre’s report reads: “Radio 1 must reclaim its reputation as a station for young people, with a significantly greater focus on teenage listeners. Radio 2 should place much greater emphasis on serving the needs of older listeners, both in daytime music choice and the scheduling and content of programmes. The station’s target audience should be raised from 35+ to 40+ (and 45+ after three years)”.

Elsewhere, the RadioCentre report also calls on the BBC to fund the further expansion of the digital audio broadcasting network, so that DAB can match FM in coverage levels. On the issue of local radio, it calls for less networking of programmes (something the Strategy Review wants to increase), for no music in daytime, for specialist shows in the evening, and for collaborations with community, student and hospital radio stations.

Meanwhile, page space is also given in the submission to one of RadioCentre’s biggest bug bears, the cross-promotion of BBC radio services on the Beeb’s TV channels. It says such cross-promotion should only be allowed for uniquely BBC type programming – such as Radio 4’s current British Museum tie up – rather than Radio 1 and 2 style shows that directly compete with commercial rivals, such as the Chris Moyles breakfast show and the UK Top 40.

RadioCentre top man Andrew Harrison says this: “The best of BBC Radio is among the finest in the world. However, BBC Radio also enjoys an extremely privileged position, and it is right to consider how it should continue to play its part in securing a thriving radio sector for all. This [the Strategy Review] is a unique opportunity to shape our industry for the digital age and one we cannot afford to miss. I believe that our recommendations will deliver top-quality BBC output, and we urge the Trust to prove itself as the cheerleader for the listener”.