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BBC prioritises a “distinct” Radio 1 in its first Annual Plan

By | Published on Wednesday 5 July 2017

BBC Radio 1

The BBC has published an Annual Plan for 2017/2018, a document the broadcaster will now publish annually as part of its new relationship with OfCom.

The UK media regulator is now the principal overseer of the Beeb following the winding down of the old BBC Trust, and the Annual Plan sets out the broadcaster’s obligations to OfCom for each of its TV and radio services, as well as making programming commitments that it thinks goes above and beyond what it is obliged to deliver.

On all things musical, the document states: “Music has been at the heart of the BBC’s mission since its foundation. It is our largest genre by output, with more than 40,000 hours of BBC content every year across TV and radio”.

It goes on to brag that “as the largest and most diverse music broadcaster in the UK, the BBC uses its scale in unique ways, whether as the largest employer of orchestral musicians in the UK, the most significant commissioner of new classical music in the world, or as the pre-eminent supporter of new or unsigned UK artists through platforms such as BBC Introducing or Radio 1”.

On that latter point it adds: “For new artists and musicians, it is harder than ever to break through to mainstream audiences. In this respect, the BBC’s role in music is more important today than ever before, a unique stage for the greatest musical talent to reach an audience of millions. The UK music industry tells us that we remain crucial to its success in the UK and around the world”.

In terms of priorities in the music domain, the report says: “Our strategic focus in music will be on refreshing music radio and supporting Radio 1; creating greater impact on BBC One through landmark music moments; and developing new digital outlets for the BBC’s music content through greater personalisation within iPlayer Radio”.

Not only is Radio 1 picked out in particular in the Beeb’s list of musical priorities, the commitment to ensure that the nation’s favourite plays “a more distinctive mix of music” with “a daytime playlist which features a greater range of songs” is also one of the headline commitments included in the Corporation’s announcement of its Annual Plan.

Though – before you get too excited about an imminent radical overhaul of playlisting priorities at the music station – the devil, as always, is in the detail. The specific commitment is that “Radio 1 will play a more distinctive mix of music than comparable providers, with a daytime playlist which features a greater range of songs”.

By “comparable providers” it presumably means commercial pop stations – maybe even those with a youth bias – and playing a more distinctive mix of music than most of them isn’t too tricky. Though the fact that the Beeb is specifically pushing its musical diversity commitments in relation to Radio 1 nevertheless seems significant.

Elsewhere in the document there is a big commitment in budget terms to invest in children’s services over and above the current output of kids channels CBBC and CBeebies. More investment is also promised for the BBC’s outposts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Plus new seasons of programmes focused on science and art are teased, and there is quite a bit of talk about utilising data – both as part of a fact checking initiative to try to tackle all that fake news that has become so popular on the social networks, and to better personalise a user’s experience of BBC services online.

Says BBC boss dude Tony Hall: “Our ambition to reinvent the BBC for a new generation is our biggest priority for next year. Every part of the BBC will need to contribute to meeting this challenge. In this plan we set out our creative vision and some of the strategic decisions we will need to take to help us achieve that goal”.

To that end, he hopes, “the new funding we’ve announced today for our children’s services – the biggest investment for a generation – will help us ensure we can maintain our reputation for world-class programmes across our linear channels, but also increasingly offer a personalised online offering for our younger viewers. By keeping our focus on our audiences we’ll be best placed to meet the challenges ahead of us and will ensure the BBC of 2022 continues to serve the whole of the UK”.

The Annual Plan published yesterday is actually a draft and people are invited to submit feedback ahead of publication of the final version later this year. You can read the full document here if you so wish.