Thank you for your comments

Friday 5 March 2010, 14:47

Mark Thompson Mark Thompson Director-General (2004-2012)

This is a short post to say, very simply, thank you. I've had a chance to catch up on your comments this morning and I am really grateful to so many of you for taking the time to get in touch.

Having set out proposals which included closing some much-loved services, I am not surprised that some of our plans have provoked a strong reaction. From what I've read, I don't see there's much I can add to what I've said previously about specific proposals linked to 6 Music or the Asian Network or what my colleagues Tim Davie and John Tate have posted over the week.

But I would like to reinforce a few points about the overall strategy - as I think it's really important people do not lose sight of the fact that our plans are about safeguarding the future of the whole BBC. Because the BBC's contribution to UK culture and society is bigger than the sum of its parts.

As a public institution we have a very clear public mission which we must fulfil to justify our existence. For us to be confident and ambitious into the digital future, we must be consistent in delivering that mission. And after a very comprehensive piece of work, I am convinced we need to make some changes to how we operate to guarantee consistency in the future.

Whilst I believe our proposals are right, it is also absolutely right that the people who own and pay for the BBC get their say before final decisions are made.

Now is your opportunity to get involved. The BBC Trust - our governing body - wants your input so they can take it into account when judging our proposals. We will forward your comments to the Trust, but if you really want to be heard you should also visit their site and complete the consultation.

As I said in my post on Tuesday:

"My ambition is for us to become more confident and proud of the fact that we exist to be different. Our purpose is not to make money, it is to enrich people's lives by capturing the essence of Britain today and making sure everyone can access excellence in programmes and content whoever they are."

And my ambition is for the whole BBC to be held up as meeting this vision, not just bits of it. The proposals I set out on Tuesday are just the start of an exciting new chapter for the BBC.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.


    Please believe me, I am not trying to hound you, I am simply trying to understand. I would therefor greatly appreciate a concrete answer to a question that many are asking: what station (specifically) do expect will offer music that the average 6 Music fan would be interested in at peak times?



  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Whilst I don't disagree with your strategy, the criteria for 6 music being closed seems very woolly and contradicts what I as a license payer thought the remit for the BBC was.

    Why does investing more money in direct competitors of commercial radio give commercial radio a break?

    Why do the like of John Tate & Tim Davie not acknowledge that 6 music is a distinct and irreplaceable publicly funded station when the likes of David Bowie, Lilly Allen & Ed O'Brien and the many listeners of 6 music quite clearly do?

    After all it's not the most expensive radio station to run now is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Quality has got to be the overriding aim of the BBC.

    If you can save the good stuff from the stations you can't afford to run, and use it to replace the poorer shows from the stations that remain, then the only challenge that remains is to make good on your aim to improve the quality of other programming. Just promise to run in the opposite direction if you see Peter Bazalgette coming...

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    "My ambition is for us to become more confident and proud of the fact that we exist to be different. Our purpose is not to make money, it is to enrich people's lives by capturing the essence of Britain today and making sure everyone can access excellence in programmes and content whoever they are."

    If this is the case, then you would put 6 music on FM... I dare you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    You say the BBC's contribution to UK culture and society is bigger than the sum of its parts. But that contribution will be diminished if it loses those parts that are unique. Those parts that have no counterpart in the commercial sector. 6 Music is a perfect example of something that the BBC can do, that can't be replicated by a commercial company. Its output is so different to that of Radios 1 and 2, it's hard to see how these two services can take on what 6 Music is doing.

    "My ambition is for us to become more confident and proud of the fact that we exist to be different." When I look at the BBC, I find several things that are virtual clones or copies of commercial output, on TV and radio. Where the BBC is imitating the 'opposition', this is what should be cut. Where the BBC excels, whether it be a unique radio station such as 6 Music, or its coverage of the Olympics or its fantastic documentary series, this should all be preserved. Then you can legitimately say the BBC is different.

    After several days now, reading the BBC's explanations for the proposed changes, I'm beginning to wonder: what is really going on here? None of the Management arguments have been at all persuasive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    "From what I've read, I don't see there's much I can add to what I've said previously about specific proposals linked to 6 Music or the Asian Network or what my colleagues Tim Davie and John Tate have posted over the week"

    Why not ? Pretty much none of the posts on these blogs querying the logic of this decision or pointing out the inconsistencies of your arguments have been answered at all.

    This review must have taken a lot of money to produce (can I ask how much ?). I presume that if it gets kicked back from the BBC Trust a lot of questions will be asked about whether yourself and Tim Davie should still be in a job. I suggest answering our questions more fully might be a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    "From what I've read, I don't see there's much I can add to what I've said previously about specific proposals..." How about giving a straight answer to some of the points your listeners have taken the time to raise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Good on yer for the reply and the info. The BBC's contribution to society is important, crucial but I would add that some parts are better than others and the whole is only as strong as it's weaker parts. 6 Music is by no means the weakest link.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Having listened to Radio 4's Feedback today, I am disappointed with Tim Davie's response to Roger Bolton's interview. The earlier comments on Feedback from BBC 6 Music listeners were far more convincing of the need to save 6 Music - it truely enriches people's lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    While I think many points of the overall strategy & proposals have merit, I have to raise 2 points

    - Surely you had to know that listing 6 Music for closure would invoke a huge response, so I have little sympathy if you are getting frustrated that your overall message is being lost in the noise. If you'd didn't realise this, then again it shows poor understanding of what is one of your most distinctive and high quality products.

    - You mention specifics, but I've yet to hear any specific proposal that illustrates how you'll merge any 6 Music content onto Radio 1 or 2 and keep their audiences happy as well as expecting 6 music listeners to continue to listen. This is especially true for Radio 2 where you are suggesting >50% speech during the daytime, and wanting it to cater for an older audience. It simply does not compute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Thompson! Have you actually registered a word of what was written on the 300+ comments attached to your previous blog? We understand that the whole BBC is at stake, but we don't think that cutting 6music, will have any effect other than to diminish the BBC's reputation for quality broadcasting.
    Why not cut the real dross being run, and re-run on BBC3? Or even merge BBC3 and 4, with a view to reducing the bog-standard, Sky3-style output? Or what about cutting 1xtra, which currently costs more than 6, attracts less listeners, and has little more than a stripped down R+B version of the R1 playlist? Surely this would save more money, and be in keeping with your 'less for better' ethos.
    I'm sure you don't need to be reminded of how Paxman humiliated you by reading out such titles as Paws, Claws and Videotape. Do you really want to be remembered for leaving that rubbish to fester on our screens while you took away programming which people actually liked?
    You are accusing us of failing to understand the bigger picture, which can't be further from the truth. This is arrogant, patronising and a clear indication that you are out of touch with a public which deserves better. If all you have left is to treat these protests with condescension, then you do not deserve to draw 800,000 pounds of a salary taken from our licence fees.
    By the way, I've completed the form, and sent emails to srconsultation and the complaints board. But if this blog is a precursor for the way in which you will respond to criticism during the consultation period, I despair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    If this is your ambition, then I find it confusing that you want to close BBC 6 Music- a station which exists solely to be different to the output of mainstream BBC and commercial radio stations. If your purpose is not to make money, then why are your supposed motives to cut 6 Music financial? Even so, the financial reasons do not appear to make any sense as the station costs a mere 0.2% of the BBC budget. It is clear from the public outcry that 6 Music is a station which enriches peoples' lives- it certainly enriches mine.

    Also, if you are wanting to be ambitious about the future of digital media, then why are you cutting digital channels? Particularly as 6 Music could actually do with being on FM radio.

    I can only hope that we, the licence fee payers get the last word on this matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I'm sorry but you've failed to justify the decision to axe a high-quality and relatively cheap service, except in the vaguest, management-speak-ridden terms, in either of your posts. In fact, you've barely even addressed it - nor have any of your colleagues. I fail to see where this bright future you speak of is coming from; all I see is a BBC sliding into the mire of mediocrity and sub-standard programming.

    Perhaps you would consider going on Question Time on BBC1 (one of the few BBC1 programmes I have any regard for these days) to allow a live audience of intelligent license players to challenge you directly - it seems like that would be the only way for any of us to get a straight answer. This is too important an issue to be swept under the carpet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I hate to say it, Mr Thompson, but I am actually starting to feel insulted by the quality of your statements and protestations. I have yet to see any valid reason for you axing 6 Music. Nothing from you. Nothing from your colleagues. All this talk of strategies is meaningless. To constantly talk about the BBC informing, educating and entertaining whilst threatening 6 Music is just criminal.

    Firstly: "Because the BBC's contribution to UK culture and society is bigger than the sum of its parts". What of your obligation to new art? To emerging artists? To the cultural landscape? To the Creative Industries? In axing 6 Music you take away opportunities for musicians to sell records and progress in their career.

    Secondly: "My ambition is for us to become more confident and proud of the fact that we exist to be different. Our purpose is not to make money, it is to enrich people's lives by capturing the essence of Britain today and making sure everyone can access excellence in programmes and content whoever they are." 6 Music IS different. Counter-culture at its finest. It's the tonic to mainstream pap put out by commercial stations and your own Radio One. You talk of listener figures and then say that you are not concerned about making money. £9m is a small piece of the pie. Tiny compared to the overall BBC budget. We need it. It's not a big ask.

    As I have said before, in axing 6 Music, you contradict the very mission that you preach about. In terms of the cuts you need to make, there are bigger targets that represent poor value for money.

    Now, please when you respond to our comments can you make sure that you respond intelligently and rationally with evidence to back up your arguments. BBC public sector Birt-speak might serve the BBC well but it doesn't impress the paying public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Can you please tell us what radio and or music experience Tim Davie has brought to the Audio & Music department prior to becoming the head of this department?

    You have mentioned 'focusing the pop music output onto Radio 1 & 2' can you briefly address your thoughts on what 'pop' music is and why you consider Radio 6 to be a 'pop' station. If you could include a break down of the bands/artists Radio 1, 2 & 6 stations broadcast, highlighting the crossovers, this would be appreciated.

    Chris Moyles mentioned in his latest book that it makes for great 'toilet reading'; can you explain why he is paid 630,000 pounds of licence fee-payers money, whereas Adam and Joe who have created excellent and original TV alongside one of the highest rated podcasts via Radio 6 are facing the sack.

    Can you also discuss how in comparison to say radio 1 or BBC3, how Radio6 is less fulfilling of the BBCs criteria for programming that has been laid out in various reviews, concerning originality, value for money etcetera.

    Would you also be willing to appear on Radio6 for at least half an hour, preferably an hour, to answer audience & presenter questions about your decision to axe Radio 6.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Hi Mark,

    Firstly, I want to say, I don't envy you. Everyone has such strong views about what the BBC should be doing, and none of them agree. I'm sure you were aware that you were going to get complaints whatever you did.

    All that said, I am strongly opposed to the decision to axe 6music, and I think it has such a strong case for existing. Personally speaking, I feel I am in a demographic very much forgotten by the BBC. I don't watch much television, maybe an hour a week, so as from my point of view, the BBC doesn't offer me very much. I have to pay the same licence fee as a large family who watches TV every night, but this is not a problem for me.

    6music has provided me with a place within the BBC where I felt I belonged. I listen to more hours in a week on 6music than I watch of BBC 1 all year, and feel a strong affinity with the station. I have heard the arguments about the BBC already 9 radio stations, and that being too much, but this holds no water for me. You can have a million radio stations that I don't want to listen to, I only care about the one I do want to listen to. You cannot simply merge bits of 6music with radios 1+2 without severely diluting what 6 was about, destroying its identity and once again marginalising us who love it (not to mention diluting what radios 1 + 2 are about). The argument that you have to axe some services to make more quality (and I'm assuming mainstream) programmes only serves to alienate me more.

    Furthermore, there does not seem to be much logic to it. Firstly, 6 is one of the cheapest services the BBC provides, so axing it really doesn't accomplish much. Secondly, if this is being done to help out the commercial sector, why are you axing stations that are NOT duplicated by them?

    I accept that this is a proposal, and not set in stone yet, so I hope you are willing to listen to the counter arguments, and take them on board. From my own point of view, I cannot justify buying a license fee if I am only watching one hour of TV a week, so I won't continue to buy one. I wouldn't want to do this though, because I think the BBC is a unique organisation, and one of the things that I am actually proud about in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.


    Thanks for getting back. I’m very sure there are some worthwhile points in that proposal that I would probably agree with. But the problem is that there are being drowned out by the debate over your two digital radio channels. So retreating back to some vague generalisation about ‘justifying our existence’ and ‘excellence’ when you’re about to remove two of the stations that most justify why we pay a licence fee seems somewhat counter productive.

    The problem is that your arguments are being undermined at every level. Just this morning Steve Orchard, formally of GWR and the man who launched Planet Rock, stated categorically that:

    ‘Commercial radio can never replicate 6 Music’s cultural value – it’s not viable for us to do so. The commercial landscape has featured many fine rock music stations that have never made any real money – over time we water them down and gently shepherd them back towards the traditional commercial heartland. We will gain nothing from this closure yet the music industry will lose much.’

    Wasn’t that one of the central tenets of your proposal – that the audience was attractive to the commercial sector? Yet Mr Orchard has just confirmed that the station or its format could not survive as we known it in that market. Which any damn fool could have told you.

    Tim Davie now approaches from the angle that ‘some’ of the content could be relocated to Radio 1 or Radio 2. Has he fact ever listened to either of those stations? Radio 1 has been told not to allow its audience age to drift upwards, is clearly aimed at a teen market, and Radio 2 is apparently becoming more speech based (aside from already overflowing with music shows). To change them this fundamentally would require a complete service licence change. Otherwise, where does he propose to slot the many, many fine shows found on 6Music (eight hours of Marc Riley, twelve hours of Gideon Coe, The Freak Zone, Guy Garvey, Jarvis Cocker, Craig Charles, Tom Robinson amongst others). Like trying to fit a gallon into a pint pot.

    Your arguments are running out of steam. Tim was comprehensively bested on Feedback this afternoon. Why not retreat over the weekend, reconsider your options, and return to the table with a more viable way to protect the legacy of this fine Corporation.


  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    If your plans are about "safeguarding the future of the whole BBC", why have you decided that 6 Music and the Asian Network should be cut?
    Radio 3 has just over 2.5 times the listeners than 6 Music but costs over 5.5 times as much. Did you not consider that that was poor value for money?
    1Xtra's reach (and quality) is well below that of 6 Music and yet it remains unscathed.
    The decision cannot be qualitative rather than quantitative either - the quality of the content on 6 Music is excellent (even your sidekick Tim Davie acknowledges this).
    6 Music is an exemplary radio station and a credit to the BBC. The long term effects of your Strategy Review will be that the only music available to listeners will be the trite dumbed-down garbage that is currently peddled on Radio 1 and the commercial stations. This fare might be perfect for the average Chav but, for the more intelligent listener, is bordering on offensive.
    I sincerely hope that you listen to the many, many thousands of people who have, in various ways, tried to voice their objections to your insane proposals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    And another thing! Have you read the Steve Orchard article on The Drum's website? The bit about how the closures won't benefit the commercial sector at all is quite pertinent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Dear Mr Thompson,

    I understand that your plan is to redistribute 6Music's programming and listeners across the other two 'pop' stations.
    Which BBC station will play Half Man Half Biscuit, Josh Wink and Otis Redding alongside each other during daytime, as 6Music did this morning?

    My office of six people, aged between 23 and 55, listen to 6Music, because of the number of unique tracks it plays, and the mix of genres. There's something for everyone- and we all end up hearing something new to us which we wouldn't have listened to otherwise. We used to listen to Radio 2 in the office, but it's just too repetitive. No-one needs to hear the same Alicia Keyes single 3 or 4 times a day! We bought a DAB Radio specifically to recieve this Digital only station. Will the BBC reimburse us, as this will now be redundant?

    If the music content of Radio 2 is to be reduced to 50% of output, surely there'll be less time to play extra records anyway?

    I appreciate your arguments, but you clearly misunderstand the type of music that 6Music plays. Radios 1 and 2 cannot absorb 6Music's content during the daytime without upsetting and losing their existing audiences. The only way 6Music's existing shows can be accommodated is if they're put on late at night- which isn't when we want to listen to them!

    I would like to hear our response to my specific points.

    Best wishes,

    Seb Brennan


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