Thoughts on BBCr3

The current house style of R3 cant be divorced from the general trends in broadcasting & these cant be divorced from the general trends in society, notably the twin drivers of capitalism & techno innovation.

As pro muso /composer (& BBCr3 producer in the 80s) who now teaches extensively & runs Cherubimtrust.org I've spent my life trying to connect art music to a wider public especially the young. The defining issue in broadcasting is that an audience is attracted by a whole range of factors in addition to the actual timbre of the content. Loathe CFM as I do you cant deny that it has been phenomenally successful. Tx to Darren Henley it's absolutely on the money for its audience. Therefore, as someone with experience of the world Id say why would R3 not want some of that? Broadcasting is a numbers game & it would be political suicide for any part of the BBC to forget that. Given the pressures that exist within the organisation where probably most of the upper management views classical music in roughly the same way politicians view the church - a rather quaint sacred cow! - IMO it's utterly unrealistic to think R3 could resist a strong demotic pressure. Exactly the same thing has happened in the broadsheets which cant escape the magnetic lure of tabloidisation. The various mediums are converging & as nobody's yet sure what shape future media platforms will come in, managers everywhere are trying hedge their operations by grabbing any passing kite & heading for the centre ground. So much for the digital dividend! 

My career as a broadcaster was ended by the Birt reforms (called with totalitarian genius Producer Choice); so I have every reason to hanker for the past. Old BBC hands say the coporation changes completely every 10 years - and I certainly saw that during my time as a broadcaster (not just R3). And it's now 2 (re)generations later. It's a technology driven business & technology creates consciousness which in turn gives rise to new mythologies (balance of probabilities). We who are on the outside may not agree with them & we may, as you do, seek to assert our perspective/s - that is q proper - but IMHO we have to negotiate from a current balance of probabilities. We do live in an age when the ability to read & literacy /raw data & knowledge are taken for the same thing. we cant expect R3 to be immune from such idiocy!

I spent sometime in California last year and was interested to listen to the classical radio stations there. They weren't by any means bad, but it was heavily formatted towards cap-C Classical repertoire, and a style of presentation known as reading the CD liner notes! And of course very little contemporary music & no live or new music whatever. It seems to me that the complaint of traditional listeners is that they're not being catered for. I rather suspect most would rather prefer Californian classical radio. But an attempt is being made by BBCR3 (eptly or ineptly) to interest younger & wider audiences. It's not the balance as Id call it, but I dont think it's a bad one - tho the rajar figures aren't exactly encouraging from the BBC's perspective!

As I think I said earlier, there isn't one answer. There're lots of different potential answers and requires constant experimentation to find which answers click in the current context. Thus it comes down to: how clever do you think the present regime are in handling these issues? Id give them a 7 for effort & a 6 for effect. The problem is when older listeners dont see the bigger picture, or rather use R3 as a whipping boy for the complaints about the modern world that wont stick anywherelse.

I tell you the difficulties of opening the spiritual breadth of 'heritage' music to those who brought up under the 'perpetual erasure' of electronic culture have never been more problematical when (state) schools no longer really even bother to teach it. That's the baseline from we're now all operating & I think we're lucky that R3 still has the budget todo as much asit does. Who can say The Proms isn't one of the greatest music festivals of the world, perhaps of all time?

Once upon a time most secondary schools had choral societies. There almost none of left at schools near here, because of the curriculum pressures & modern lifestyles. Where is the next generation of amateur choral singers to come from?