Glastonbury 2013 on the BBC

Director, BBC Music

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Aerial shot of Glastonbury 2010

Controller of Popular Music at the BBC Bob Shennan, explains how the BBC will be provide coverage of this year's Glastonbury Festival.

Around this time two years ago, Beyonce rocked the Pyramid stage at the world’s greatest music and arts festival. Now the fields of Worthy Farm have recovered and the Stones, Arctic Monkeys and Mumford & Sons are packing their bags for Somerset. Yes, Glastonbury is back and I’m hugely excited by what we’ve got in store.

Our ambition is to make this the best Glastonbury ever for BBC audiences and the first truly digital one, with more access to the bands and easier ways to watch and listen than ever before. For the first time, music fans will be able to choose from over 250 hours of coverage and streaming, available wherever, whenever and however they want. Over 120 performances, from six of the main stages, will be streamed live across the three days and we’ll have a huge range of TV and radio coverage of the festival, all fronted by a crack team of the best music-loving presenters in the business.

I’m staggered by the huge numbers of people who tuned in last time. Almost a third of the population watched our TV coverage of the festival in 2011 and hashtags like #glastotelly trended on Twitter as people enjoyed the festival from the comfort (and dryness!) of their sofas. There was also huge demand for content online and an estimated audience of over 4 million to the radio coverage lead by 6 Music.

Logistically, covering the festival is a huge challenge. In population terms Glastonbury temporarily becomes the third largest ‘city’ in the south-west for a weekend. Miles and miles of cable are needed to link the various broadcasting teams on site, whilst walking from one side to the other can take hours, especially if it’s muddy.

As well as our team of presenters, we will have just under 300 staff and freelancers working tirelessly over the weekend to deliver 34 hours of television coverage and 59 hours of radio, in addition to the wealth of interactive coverage. Although we have about 10% more people going this year, we’re expecting to offer approximately 40% more output and cover around twice as many artists. Whilst some may argue that the staff numbers are high, creating programming on this ambitious scale means ensuring that we have the right resources to provide the high quality that is rightly expected of the BBC. This isn’t a licence fee funded jolly - we’ve looked very closely at who will be there and each and every person attending from the BBC will be there solely because they have a job to do in either bringing our audience the best possible content or ensuring that everything we do at the festival is run as effectively as possible.

In some areas there will be fewer staff working on site than previously as, more than ever, we are sharing expertise and resources wherever possible. For example, the sound you hear of a band on television is mixed by the same person responsible for the sound on the radio; the video highlights you can view online are filmed by the same cameraman working on our television coverage. Therefore, although the amount of the festival that we’re showing is so much greater than ever before, the number of people isn’t.

Our aim is for Glastonbury 2013 on the BBC to be better than ever. Let’s just keep fingers crossed on the one thing we can’t influence - the weather.

Bob Shennan is Controller, BBC Popular Music


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