The BBC Strategy Review & BBC Radio
There has been a huge amount of online discussion about the BBC's Strategy Review since Tuesday's announcement, much of it around the proposal to close 6 Music. I would like to explain the thinking behind this proposal and the plans for the Asian Network, but it's important to explain them in the context of the wider strategy.
BBC Radio is an essential part of the BBC's mission to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC's Strategy Review was borne out of the need to preserve this mission in a rapidly-changing digital environment, while recognising that the BBC needs to focus its efforts and investment.
So, while we have proposed a strategy based on our traditional principles of making high-quality programmes, we have also acknowledged that we need to do fewer things better.
In radio, we're proposing bold steps to strengthen and simplify our station line-up. I do not believe that offering the current range of nine stand-alone digital networks is the right way to serve audiences and ensure radio remains strong in a digital world. And, while digital radio has seen growth, my concern is that current development remains slow.
So we are proposing to reduce the number of stations and re-invest in our five core networks - Radios 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 live - and extensions of these services, such as 1Xtra and 5 live sports extra, while maintaining our overall investment in digital radio to use in a range of innovative ways to provide listeners with great digital content.
For example, Radio 7 would be developed through closer ties with Radio 4, culminating in the re-branding of the station as Radio 4 Extra. This will offer listeners the best of Radio 7 as well as offering new possibilities, such as extending existing Radio 4 favourites, newly commissioned programmes and more second runs of popular programmes.
But this strategy of focusing efforts on doing fewer things better also means difficult decisions. Clearly we didn't arrive lightly at the decision to recommend the closure of 6 Music: It is distinctive, much loved and I too am passionate about its output. But I believe the best way for us to provide that kind of programming is by looking at other ways to find it a bigger audience. Currently, only one in five adults have heard of it and less than one in 50 listens each week. Yes, we could invest heavily in marketing to try to address this, but my preference is to ensure that money is focussed on unique, high quality radio, not supporting a large number of services.
While we are re-focussing on fewer networks, we will consider how the range of music played on Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 should adjust to ensure we continue to offer a diverse spectrum of new and UK music as part of our stronger focus on originality and distinctiveness.
I also believe it is essential that, as we re-invest the money currently spent on 6 Music, we protect some of its precious programming by redeploying it elsewhere in BBC Radio and consider how we can also do justice to its legacy in areas like new music development.
The Asian Network has offered a distinctive national service to British Asian audiences since it moved onto a digital platform in 2002. But the increasing plurality and diversity of British Asian audiences are stretching the coherence and relevance of this service, its audience reach is in decline and its cost per listener is high. While the quality of much of its programming is very high, changes in its strategy have led to an inconsistent listening experience and the national station has been less successful at replicating the sense of community which was fundamental to the growth of the original local Asian service. So we have proposed closing the Asian Network as a national service and will be exploring a number of options for redeploying its investment, including replacing it with a network of part-time local services. We believe this would offer listeners a better service - Asian Networks where they're most relevant - closer to audiences and with a mixture of locally tailored and syndicated programmes.
I know that there is real sadness that we are losing valued services, but this is part of a strategy to ensure BBC Radio continues to be as relevant and popular as ever in the digital world.
I am confident that these proposals are the right way for us to deliver our mission, but it's also right that licence fee payers get to have their say. That's why the BBC Trust exists: to ensure you get a chance to input before final decisions are made.
Tim Davie is Director, BBC Audio & Music