Media Top Stories

Save 6: How was it done, and what does it mean?

By | Published on Tuesday 6 July 2010

Everybody in the world, that’s right, every single person, lined up yesterday to welcome the decision by the BBC Trust to block the proposal to shut down 6music.

As previously reported, the Trust, which had to approve cutback plans announced by BBC management earlier this year, said yesterday “the case has not been made for the closure of 6music”. The BBC regulator then told Corporation top dogs to conduct a complete review of their digital radio output, but not with any specific brief to shut down 6. In fact, it advised BBC bosses to look into ways to increase the digital station’s audience instead.

While some fear that, by ordering a wider digital output review, the Trust is allowing BBC management to keep 6 alive for now, only to quietly wind down its operations at a later date, once people have stopped looking, many others are optimistic that yesterday’s announcement really does mean 6music has been saved.

Working out quite how that was achieved would make a good academic study. Is it proof of the power of social media in uniting a modest group of disparately located aggrieved people, and in providing those campaigners with a visible platform and a forum to help maintain the momentum of their campaigning?

Or was it because 6music was just lucky to have a lot of high profile fans, including journalists, comedians and musicians? Or was it because some influential but opportunistic Tories saw the pre-Election benefits of speaking up for the cooler of the BBC’s radio stations, given the Corporation’s strategic review was seemingly written with the soon-to-be-elected Tory government in mind?

Did 6music benefit from the Tory’s dislike of the BBC Trust, creating an environment where the regulator – fighting for survival – was looking for a high profile opportunity to show it can stand up to BBC management when it wants to? Or were the Trust and BBC top guard in cahoots all along, orchestrating an elaborate bit of misdirection; distract license fee payers at large over here by threatening to shut down a relatively cheap, innovative service with lots of celebrity fans, so no one notices you shutting down a whole load of other cool stuff over there?

Or perhaps the proposal to shut down 6music – one of BBC radio’s least commercial services – and divert its £9 million a year budget to other stations that more directly compete with commercial radio, as part of a strategic review designed to placate concerns in the commercial sector about the Corporation abusing its safe funding streams to get unfair competitive advantage, was just such a dumb, dumb, dumb idea, even the management-loving BBC Trust had to knock it back.