Why the BBC has a responsibility to take Drill music seriously

BBC Head of Programmes, 1Xtra and Asian Network

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These are extraordinary times for a British black music scene that 1Xtra has championed for more than 15 years. The explosion of young, home-grown success stories over the past three years has been unprecedented. But recently Drill and some elements of UK Rap have been subject to media scrutiny and accused of having a causative effect on serious street violence in London. So should we be playing this music at the BBC?

1Xtra takes our editorial responsibility very seriously, including the music we play and the guests we have on our programmes. 1Xtra does not glamorise violence and decisions on music are made on a case-by-case basis. We have strict editorial guidelines in place before any content is broadcast or posted.

More widely, debates around popular music triggering controversy is nothing new, having been around since teenagers started listening to rock ‘n’ roll. 1Xtra therefore works closely with the music industry and our audience to ensure we are reflecting society and are in touch with young people’s expectations. Our audience demands authenticity and expects to be challenged both by the music we play and in the discussions and issues that we debate on our news programmes, documentaries, 1Xtra Talks slot and new 1Xtra Podcast feed. 

So when we play Drill and UK rap we are taking into account the need to protect creativity and the artist’s integrity, but balanced with the need to protect our airwaves and a duty of care for our audience. This level of editorial responsibility, with a UK audience at its centre, is unique to the BBC and sets us apart from global streaming services and others.

We are constantly looking at where we can be a force for good. We’ve taken the decision to bring 1Xtra Live, the biggest event in the calendar, to The O2 in London this year. Ahead of 1Xtra Live we will visit 17 schools and six community centres across the capital, targeting key boroughs the have been badly affected by knife crime, low employment rates and poverty. The Inspire ME (Motivation & Empower) Tour will reach 12-18-year-old young people by sharing success stories and advice from role models in the community.

1Xtra is excited to reflect the culture of young people in society, but we are aware of the responsibility that comes with it.

Mark Strippel is BBC Head of Programmes, 1Xtra and Asian Network

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