Jamie Crossan examines the new BBC plans and speaks to several bands including Discopolis to get their thoughts.
Back in October, the BBC opened up their ‘Delivering Quality First’ (read: operational cost-cutting) plan for public consultation. The blueprint included a proposal to scale back Radio 1’s ‘Introducing…’ programming from three, national, weekly shows – in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – to one UK-wide slot.
In theory, the amalgamated show will showcase local, unsigned talent across the whole of the UK instead of being restricted to individual nations. But Paul Downie, who is leading the ‘Save BBC Introducing In Scotland’ campaign, believes that it offers less opportunity for fledgling bands.
I guess in an idealistic world, the changes would offer greater exposure to bands but I don’t see that happening. As it stands, we get 18-20 tracks from Scottish bands in the show north of the border. A new UK-wide show will take that opportunity away from so many, as you might only get 3-4 from each nation.
Paul hopes that the campaign, which has delivered 14,000 signatures to the BBC Trust, will help reverse the decision to merge the three programmes. But he fears it might not be enough. That’s because the BBC revealed that a UK-wide show would cost “5 times less” than the status quo and, therefore, be more financially viable.
A spokesperson for BBC defended the proposed plan, insisting, “Radio 1 is committed to unsigned talent”. She added: “The new ‘Introducing…’ show, which will replace the current show, will still champion undiscovered and unsigned talent from across the UK.”
‘BBC Radio 1 Introducing…’ has been a vital artery in the heart of UK music for over a decade and has helped everyone from Franz Ferdinand to Two Door Cinema Club get noticed.
Edinburgh-based band, Bwani Junction, have recently had their music played on the show and have been vocal supporters of the campaign from the start.
Yesterday they joined their fellow advocates at the Scottish Parliament (January 18) to watch a debate, led by MSP Joan McAlpine, on the proposal. Guitarist Dan Muir laid down how important the show is.
The help we have received has been superb. It’s the only platform we really have, there’s no one doing what they do for local scenes. It’s helped us get off the ground. With the changes, I think it’ll be harder for musicians outside of London to get noticed.
Discopolis’ Dave Lloyd agrees. “It’s not just about the exposure; it’s a rite of passage” he insists. “To think that there could potentially be bands that don’t get to experience hearing their music on Radio 1 is a travesty.”
It may be difficult to judge whether or not the cuts will greatly affect British music, but a potentially diminished showcase for unsigned artists can only have a detrimental effect.
Come April, when the final judgement is made, BBC Radio 1 must decide if they really are the station to put trust in new music.