So, the BBC are going to close down 6 Music – which will be a great shame as it’s one of the few stations around that play a good mix of contemporary and past music, AND also has presenters that are knowledgeable about music and that have a love and passion for it. Which is rare in this day and age of pre-packaged poppets of either sex whose main claim to fame is that they’re currently ‘in the public eye’ because of who they’re seen with or where they’re seen.
The cuts announced by Mark Thompson to the Corporation’s 3.5 billion budget may be politically motivated or commercially motivated, depending upon who you listen to. They may be a ‘stalking horse’ to try and coax the Government to give the BBC more money, and won’t be pushed through. They may be designed to soften up the public to make them willing to take higher license fees to keep services. there are any number of possible reasons floating around the blogosphere right now, as well as the stated reason of focusing the BBC’s resources on what are called ‘core functions’.
I’m not going to get in to the other aspects of the restructuring; I’m just going to focus on 6 Music and try and bring it’s cost in to perspective. It costs about £9 million a year to keep it running, and there are some useful comparisons of ‘cost per listener’ of the BBC’s digital stations here. In terms of pure cost per listener, Radio 1 Xtra and the Asian Network cost considerably more.
£9 million is a little over half the cost of the original (ending in July 2010) deal with Jonathan Ross for his services to the BBC – £17 millions over 3 years. Graham Norton has just signed a 2 year deal with the BBC for a total of £4 millions. Thompson’s salary £800,000 a year. Take the opportunity to read around about the expenses culture at the BBC – again, you’ll find that an awful lot of license fee seems to be spent on things a long way away from the provision of programmes.
The cost of 6 Music is small fry for the BBC – it’s a bout 0.0002% of the total budget of 3 odd billion. It’s almost a rounding error in the BBC’s scheme of things. To cut the services will do the BBC no good at all. It’s such a fundamental misjudgement that I am starting to wonder whether the ‘conspiracy theorists’ are right and we may soon be told by Thompson that it was all a mistake and that 6 radio will not be scrapped after all. A lot of the listenership of 6 Music is vociferous and media-savvy; there are many alternative media sources available for people today. The BBC’s repeated treatment of licence payers as a cash cow that need not be listened to can only go on for so long before a backlash starts, and this round of changes might just be the thing to do it.