Over the last few weeks it’s been near impossible to turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing something on the recent announcements that, as part of cost-cutting measures, the BBC plan to axe it’s digital radio stations Asian Network and 6Music. Much has been written on what this means for culture and music and I could go on about the travesty of BBC Radio being without knowledgeable and passionate broadcasters like Lauren Laverne, Mark Riley and Gideon Coe (a personal favourite and the only man aside from John Peel I’ve ever heard play Shellac). But it’s not just music that’ll be dealt a huge blow as 6Music has, over the years, been home to some of Britain’s biggest and best comedy talent. So what does this means for comedy on BBC Radio?
6Music has undoubtedly started comedy careers. Last week was the final show for comedian Jon Richardson. He had begun on the Sunday morning show of Russell Howard (still very much an up-and-comer at the time himself). Personally I had dismissed Richardson as nothing more than a sidekick but since his elevation to host his comic skills have been there for all to see and his back-to-back Edinburgh nominations have highlighted his ever-growing ability. He’s funny, he’s grumpy, he’s optimistic and he’s been willing to bring through other comics on his show, including the likes of Matt Forde and Lloyd Langford. He’s been perfect for 6Music.
It’s resurrected careers too. Take Adam and Joe. Given a fresh lease of life by their Saturday morning show, for many they were still that studenty double-act off the television. But they’re show has been fantastic weekend kick-start, they sound revitalised and have a huge cult following and increasingly popular podcasts to show for it. From a promotional point of view it’s also been one of the best places for comics to get themselves heard. In terms of interviews you can turn on and catch Doug Stanhope, Pappy’s, Mark Watson, Stewart Lee or Dan Antopolski to name but a few. Would they be so welcome elsewhere?
6Muisc has also been home to feted ‘institutions’ like Phill Jupitus, Stephen Merchant and a pre-Radio 2/pre-Sachsgate/pre-Hollywood superstar Russell Brand. Ironically it’s the Sachsgate affair that has arguably put the BBC under such scrutiny from certain corners of the media and has led them to make such cuts.
So what next? Is the BBC going to find homes for these presenters? It’s difficult to see how and where much of 6Music’s content will go. How will this affect other BBC stations? Would Radio 2, 4 or even Radio 7 freshen up their schedules with the likes of Adam & Joe? Are there commercial stations that’ll put the same emphasis, not just on the music, but the personalities that bring it to the listeners – Absolute or XFM maybe? Can 6Music still be saved? Unfortunately the BBC may think they’re answering questions with these cuts but they have in fact posed a whole batch of new ones. All this and we’ve not even mentioned the impact these cuts could have on TV comedy. But that’s another note for another day.
Save 6Music/Asian Network Petition: http://www.petition.fm/petitions/6musicasiannet/1000/