Entertainment & Arts

BBC radio stations essential to UK music - culture minister

Sam Smith, Paul McCartney and Rita Ora Image copyright BBC / Getty Images
Image caption Sam Smith, Sir Paul McCartney and Rita Ora are among those defending BBC music stations

The culture secretary has played down fears over the future of BBC music stations, calling them "absolutely essential" to UK music.

John Whittingdale, who is overseeing the BBC's Royal Charter renewal, said he wanted it to keep providing services "like Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3".

He spoke at an event run by UK Music, whose #LetItBeeb campaign opposes changes to BBC music stations.

Stars Sam Smith, Sandie Shaw and Jake Bugg attended the event in Westminster.

Jo Dipple, chief executive of trade body UK Music, said the recording industry would be "weaker without the BBC," adding that cuts were "not worth the risk".

'Worrying'

Sam Smith, who recently hit number one with his Bond theme Writing's On The Wall, said he was "worried" about the impact cuts would have on young artists.

"BBC music is one of the main reasons I am actually here, and where I am in my career," he told BBC News.

"The thought of not having it and not having some of the programmes is worrying to me. I'm worried for the new artists and how they'll be heard and if they'll be heard."

Pink Floyd's Nick Mason agreed, saying: "There is no other radio opportunity for less-known bands."

He described the impact Radio 1 had on his career, recalling the first time he heard Pink Floyd's song See Emily Play on the air.

"I suddenly began to realise that my career might last longer than three months," he said.

'Leave it'

UK music is organising a petition to protect "BBC music services" - signed by some of music's biggest names, including Sir Paul McCartney, Boy George, New Order, George Ezra, Little Mix, Rita Ora, Jessie Ware, Paloma Faith, Disclosure, Sting, Chrissie Hynde, Annie Lennox and Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis.

Another signatory is Bob Geldof, who had strong words for MPs.

"Leave the BBC and British music alone," he said in a written statement.

"You know nothing about either. Leave it to the people that do."

'Incredible talent'

But Mr Whittingdale appeared to allay those fears, telling an audience which included BBC director general Tony Hall: "Those of you who know me know that I'm a huge fan of music.

"I regard the BBC's contribution to music in this country as absolutely essential.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption John Whittingdale said he would "continue to support the BBC" in promoting UK talent

"I want the BBC to go on proving services like Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 - all of which cater for tastes which are not served by the commercial sector.

"In some ways, actually, my criticism of the BBC is that they don't do enough for music. Radio is very well served but [on] TV, I'd actually like to see a bit more.

"As long as I am secretary of state, I will continue to support the BBC in highlighting the incredible talent that we have in this country.

"I haven't seen your petition but I think I'd be very willing to sign it."

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