We need to talk about The BBC (and all the baggage that comes with it)

This is a music blog, nothing more and nothing less. Yet another timid voice joining the treadmill of ‘music journalism’ and trying to make something out of the dispiriting mulch we are given. Too many bands, man. Too many good bands, too many bad. All clamouring. All demanding. All wanting their work to be validated by anyone who will listen, even if the reply is not what they want to hear. I know, I’m one of them. I researched blogs that might be interested and sent off my wares only for them to be lost under rubble. Too many bands, remember, but also too many reviewers. There is no journalism in music; only reviews, interviews and promotional pieces choreographed by the wider industry. It’s all so tiring. I want to write about important developments that will have wide implications on our wider musical culture, not how Django Django got influence from John Cage. The influence of Cage is all permeating (such is his influence on all music) so articles like that mean nothing and make a mockery of the word. Of course the problem with this path is that real, proper music news is rare and almost always causes factual infighting when reported (take Jay-Z acquiring TIDAL as a recent example). So we fill the time with album reviews and therefore add to the problem. Like a feeder. Still, I’m an optimist and believe in both the future and the arts within it, it is why we need to talk about the BBC.

          But not this. We did this already. It's terrible.

Tony Hall – the BBC Director-General – has recently announced plans for the BBC to grow into a cultural powerhouse and ‘open platform’ for creativity through investing in arts programming and North Korean radio. This is unequivocally a good thing. It is especially honourable when you consider the pressure the BBC has found itself under this past year from a government desire for it to downsize. Admittedly, the BBC itself has previously internally acknowledged the need to reduce spending (it’s running a deficit of £700 million), but elements within Parliament feel it right to push it further and politicise this ostensibly impartial institution. Making it a bargaining chip in the endless saga of fixing the national finances and chastising it when, through bloody-minded common sense and journalism, it appears to lean left or right. Don’t get me wrong; there are obviously people working for the BBC with strong political views and use the platform to weigh arguments either way. Yet for every blue Jeremy Clarkson there is a red Chris Packham to balance it out. Because it does balance out; this is a corporation that, through dint of history, is huge and varied and diverse and has fingers in so many interlinked pies that for it to have any secret agenda simply wouldn’t be worth the time and effort. But you disagree – option A: It’s a solid part of the ‘establishment’, a British Brainwashing Corporation out to discredit the Left and keep the memory of a benign colonial empire (and the strength of ‘British’ values) alive within the collective memory. But you disagree – option B: It’s the head of the hated Liberal media, a giant vat of dangerous thought destroying our morals through popular culture with programming weighted heavily against the home-spun ideals of big C Conservatives. The recent criticism levelled against the BBC by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn was so similar to that levelled by supporters of Nigel Farage that I could only smile. The BBC is as British as us all, it has our foibles and our conflicting points of view and that makes me glad.

This is a music blog. Honest. But Music is breaking and we’re all flailing about in the flotsam trying to work out what to do next. Too many bands, man. Too many bands with no clear aim beyond ‘be successful’ and a constant stream of demos filling the in trays of what few ‘important’ figures remain. There is no John Peel for our generation (though many try desperately to wear his shadow). There is no Top of the Pops. There is just the internet in all it’s disappointment. But I’m an optimist remember, I see this announcement to shift the BBC towards a cultural focus as exciting and hopeful. We’ve already seen how public pressure kept 6 Music alive (and in doing so offered me my first serious airplay/support); maybe we can get TOTP back, or the Old Grey Whistle Test, or maybe even daytime DJ’s who actually know about music and not just social media. Something to enfranchise the art and help it gain value. Put simply, the BBC still offers an invaluable service for musicians in it’s programming precisely because it has no agenda. Of course Radio 1 will always be concerned with the mega hits of the day but it still finds time for alternative musics. Ditto Radio 6 and it’s knack for playing old-school Pop – I thank it daily for introducing me to Thomas Dolby. The will is aligning with the focus. How can I not be excited?

                  Unless they do this again. *shudder*

It obviously won’t be easy and the detractors are already mobilising, but the BBC is important and could actually help the arts in ways that the government simply refuses to do. The Arts need a platform else there’s no real point in having them. You can’t view a Monet without a gallery, unless of course you own one. Equally you probably won’t have heard my music unless you stumbled across my profile somewhere. But the BBC gave me a small platform to make an impression and I ran with it. Sure, Soundcloud and Spotify make it easier to bypass traditional radio but they don’t help in spreading the ideas within my music in the way 6 Music did. Plus it validated all my hard work in ways that gigging dive bars in London could only dream of. So even though radio listeners are dwindling and nothing is certain, I’m positive that the BBC will keep helping us musicians somehow. Because believe me when I say we need it.

Fun fact: next week is the Appraisal's birthday! Would you believe!
Make sure you're ready for it by clicking any of the 'like'/'follow'
buttons on this here page. Social Media maketh the man. Maybe I'll
plan some kind of treat. Maybe.

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