A new start for 6 Music? Here’s hoping…

Much, much too much has been said on the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand farrago, so I’m not going to add any more to the acres of piffle (although this Guardian piece is worth a read if you’re really interested, and Paul Gambaccini on Radio 5 Live also has a refreshing take on the issue if you’ve a couple of minutes to listen.)

The affair saw Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas leave the BBC – which could mean interesting times ahead for its sister network, 6 Music, which she also ran. Remember that? The music station which was going to take its sound seriously? Oh yeah. It’s now the network which seems to prefer employing comedians over music fans, which has shrunk so far back from its original remit of promoting new talent and mining the archives for lost gems that it’s almost faded from view. It must be a source of frustration at the BBC as they wonder why the relatively well-funded 6 Music lags behind in the ratings to Planet Rock, a commercial station run on a shoestring and saved from closure earlier this year.

Lesley Douglas tried Brand (represented by John Noel Management) out on the station first, but her most reviled change to 6 Music was booting out muso Gideon Coe from his morning slot and replacing him with mockney comic George Lamb (represented by John Noel Management), whose interview with Ray Davies earlier this month just about sums up the decline of 6 Music. Afternoons sees Nemone (represented by John Noel Management) try to whip up enthusiasm for phone-in quizzes, while other relatively recent Douglas recruits have been stand-up comic Jen Brister (represented by John Noel Management) and – at last! – DJ duo Queens of Noize (represented by… you get the picture), and not forgetting breakfast host Shaun Keaveny (him too) .

Actually, the most baffling import of all was Dave Pearce’s Dance Anthems from Radio 1 – why would anyone think that your average indie snob 6 Music listener would appreciate hearing that on their station? And would Pearce’s audience enjoy the rest of 6 Music? (Facebook group: 99 members)

In February, Douglas explained her thinking for changing 6 Music: “What was true of its first few years was that its audience was very male biased. I think it’s only right that you make it as open to female listeners as it is to male. That is something we have tried to address over the years.

“Men tend to be more interested in the intellectual side of the music, the tracks, where albums have been made, that sort of thing.

“We want to broaden it out – there is absolutely no reason why women shouldn’t love 6Music as much as men love 6Music.”

Which basically told 6 Music’s core listeners they weren’t welcome. It’s was a horrible echo of the destruction of the original Xfm (when Capital Radio bought it and put on Bob Geldof and a breakfast DJ from Invicta FM) and the BBC’s killing-off of GLR by parachuting in bigoted gobshite Jon Gaunt to front what was then London Live.

Daytime 6 Music is now no different in style from almost any other station. Which is a shame, because the evenings contain gems – Steve Lamacq remains authoritative, Marc Riley‘s evening show is a tremendous listen and Gideon Coe‘s nurtured his audience in the evening. (In fact, with Mark Radcliffe on Radio 2 and Colin Murray on Radio 1, there’s an embarrassment of riches on BBC radio in the evenings.)

But hopefully the change at the top will see a fresh look at 6 Music. NME radio‘s been on a trial broadcast in Inner London (87.7FM until Sunday) and it’s been refreshing – very similar to the old Xfm; with more music and less chatter (which is good, because the chatter on there is wincingly awful). So it can be done.

There’s plenty of room to expand 6 Music beyond jangly indie without going for the lowest common denominator – if you want some dance music, the brilliant Gilles Peterson languishes at 2am on Thursdays on Radio 1 while Rob Da Bank and Chris Coco‘s The Blue Room is much missed. Or Patrick Forge, recently departed from Kiss? Or how about Sean Rowley’s Guilty Pleasures?

This is a real chance to wipe the slate clean with 6 Music and start again to build a popular, diverse, yet credible music station. But whether anyone at the BBC, with their boxes to tick and remits to fufil will take any notice, is another matter.

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