The legendary bb takes the view, like the Friends of Radio 3, that listening figures shouldn't matter. They shouldn't: the provision of a high quality classical music and arts network is self-justifying and will only ever appeal to a small audience.
In contrast, I see no reason why high quality arts, including classical music, should not, on occasion, appeal to a large audience. Shakespeare was popular, for example! A lot of film music is classical, and popular! Yet quality is very difficult to pin down. Who is to say, for example, that the Third was better than BBC Radio 3, that the BBC is better than its more commercial rivals?
I would take the view that listening figures do matter. If no one is listening to Radio 3, it becomes impossible to justify its existence. If no one is listening to Sydney's broadcasts on The Third, why make them?
Last Edit: Nov 20, 2014 11:10:42 GMT -5 by Deleted
A busy month. At the beginning of November, FoR3 had a meeting with the BBC Trust in connection with the Trust’s current review of the music radio stations. We discussed our submission, relating to Radio 3 only. This week we met Radio 3’s new controller, who takes up his post in January.
The Trust meeting centred on one main point: in 2011, the last time Radio 3 had a review, BBC management proposed a continuation of Radio 3’s strategy to become more ‘accessible and welcoming’ to a wider audience, especially to people ‘with little knowledge of classical music’. The Trust endorsed those proposals.
For us, the strategy was totally inappropriate for Radio 3, and had resulted in a lot of listener dissatisfaction – not only with the content adjustments but also in the new tone and style. The Trust had, in fact, stipulated that the station’s core audience should not be alienated; it was not Radio 3’s ‘sole responsibility’ to bring classical music to ‘all audiences’ - other services were better placed to do that.
At this year’s meeting our argument was that focusing on a smaller, dedicated, audience was ‘enabling’: it enabled Radio 3 to broadcast material that other services wouldn’t - or couldn’t. A strategy to attract a ‘potential’ new audience was, on the contrary, inhibiting; and Radio 3 had lowered its intellectual standards. Listener ‘interactivity’, celebrity guests, quizzes, restricted (and repetitive) repertoire were ingratiating attempts to gain new listeners by mimicking other stations, notably Classic FM.
In short, our message was that Radio 3 should be allowed to be specialist, demanding and rarified: delivering the content was what mattered, not the size or breadth of the audience.
Overall, we were very satisfied this year with the depth of understanding shown by the Trust and the level of the discussion. We now have to wait and see whether alternative arguments prevail.
The meeting with Alan Davey, Radio 3’s new controller, was not a lobbying expedition - more an opportunity to discover his line of thought and introduce ourselves as a, hopefully, useful and supportive group.
The first point we made was that, at the moment, what Radio 3 needed more than anything was a champion - someone who would fight for the service inside the BBC. No disagreement so far. Secondly, what Radio 3 did not need was ‘an ex-civil servant brought in to wield an axe’ and inflict deep cuts in the service. Mr Davey was emphatic: that was not the job he had been asked to do.
But financial constraints and pressures to ‘popularise’ would always be hovering around the corridors of Broadcasting House. We showed Mr Davey recent service budget (i.e. allowable spend) figures for the three network music stations. For 2007/08, Radio 1 had been allowed £31.3 million, and £41 million for 2013/14, an increase of £9.7 million or 31%. Radio 2 had £38.5 million, up to £47 million, an increase of £8.5 million or 22%. Radio 3’s allowance went up from £37 million to £39 million - £2 million or 5.4%.
A substantial chunk of Radio 3’s expenditure goes, necessarily, on supporting two ‘brands’ for which the BBC gets most of the credit - the Proms and the Performing Groups. Further, Radio 3 and Radio 4 both broadcast drama, one of the most expensive radio genres. A first-class production on Radio 3 will not cost less than a first-class production on Radio 4, merely because the audience is a tenth of the size. If you spend a lot less, you get a second-rate production. Yet Radio 3’s drama is, or should be, of a kind that Radio 4 wouldn’t broadcast.
Last weekend, Bryan Appleyard wrote a stout defence of Radio 3 and ‘high culture’ in the Sunday Times [sorry, it’s behind a paywall]. Mr Davey had read it, and just in case other BBC ‘grandees’ haven’t seen it, we’ll send them copies. It’s time more than quiet lip service was paid to the ‘high arts’ and that they were provided to an excellent standard for everyone on that most democratic of services - radio: available to all, not ‘accessible’ to all.
Last Edit: Dec 15, 2014 15:31:13 GMT -5 by Deleted
Arguing - and even discussion - with other people is almost always a soul-destroying exercise. It can be temporarily gratifying on the rare occasions when a little understanding and agreement seem to be reached - but even then the devil is in the detail and it often turns out that other people's understanding of, and practical implementation of the agreement falls in many ways short of one's own understanding and expectations. It would be best would it not were other people not to have ideas at all! But seeing that they will and do, it's best for us simply not to bother with them. In the distant future individual people cum hermits will remain in the egg cum cocoon their entire lives.
Conflict is part of the human condition, Gerard, and jaw-jaw is perhaps better than war-war, so let us allow argument. It can be dangerous, however.
It is worth asking, in retrospect, whether the Friends of Radio 3 (FoR3) were correct to pursue their campaign with the BBC in the way that they did, and whether the present dialogue will prove to be constructive.
Well, I don't think that Roger Wright was receptive to the advances of the Friends, whereas their latest news suggests that they may now be making some headway.