BBC to Launch Spin Off Radio Stations
New stations for Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3
Some news, just announced, that the BBC is preparing to launch some new national radio spin-off stations that they would like to broadcast in DAB+ on their national DAB Digital Radio multiplex.
Due to their public service nature, to achieve this aim the corporation will need to pass a Public Interest Test from Ofcom to ensure that they are not crowding out commercial stations and that they’re value for money etc.
The stations planned include an enhanced version of Radio 1 Dance with more commissioned programming, rather than just repeated shows (as the current online version does) and a souped-up version of BBC Five Live Sports Extra using some of the BBC’s sports podcasts.
The new stations are un-named at the moment, but will include:
Another Radio 1 spin-off station focused on new talent, and playing classic tracks from the past 20 years from artists Radio 1 has championed. Anthems-ish?
A Radio 2 spin-off for the over 50s with UK music from the 50s to 70s. Radio 2 Boom it seems.
A Radio 3 spin-off playing calmer classics and choral works. Radio 3 Smooth?
There’s full descriptions in the BBC’s press release.
As I mentioned in my blog post last week, the BBC has probably been ill-served as listeners moved to digital listening with having a station line-up preserved in aspic, whilst commercial stations have launched a raft of successful spin-offs. Of course the BBC did significant work to encourage digital radio take-up when it launched 6Music, 1Xtra and BBC 7 (now 4Extra) at the beginning of the 2000s.
All of the stations they have suggested make sense at first glance when thinking about gaps in the BBC’s provision, but perhaps less so when thinking about gaps in UK radio provision.
Commercial radio has been unhappy with the launch of Radio 1 Dance and felt so strongly that Ofcom messed up the process that they sued them, though lost the case last year. Global with Capital Dance and Capital Xtra and Bauer with Kiss (and its spin offs) felt targeted. I’m not sure this is likely to change with this announcement.
It’s been well-documented that Radio 2 has been trying to re-align its programming to make the station a little younger. That, alongside BBC Local Radio’s odd demographic changes, has definitely left a gap open on the older end. But it is one filled particularly by Boom Radio - but also Smooth, Gold and Greatest Hits.
In Norway, the public broadcaster had a similar issue with their main P1 station, they then launched P1+ for older listeners (often bringing back older talent too) it’s now the number one station for over 65s. Maybe this should be a Steve Wright-fronted vehicle?
Radio 3 is high-culture, but low-listening - as it has always been. It’s difficult to bring new listeners into the fold, so an easier, smoother way in is probably very sensible. The Controller of Sam Jackson also has a strong commercial radio and music industry background, so he’ll know what he’s doing.
The commercial radio owners of Classic FM, Smooth and Scala may have something different to say however.
The row, and there will be a row, will be between those who argue that licence-fee payers should have a range of BBC stations that appeal to them (that they pay for) vs an argument that there is no need for the BBC to do something that, arguably, commercial radio already does.
There will be the additional question about where the money comes from to run this. Whereas in reality I don’t imagine any of these will be that expensive, especially when run alongside a strong parent station, there will be questions about whether the BBC should be spending more money on these national stations when it’s cutting back on local provision.
When I heard that some new stations were slated to be launched, I did worry that one of them would be a reformulated CBeebies Radio (available on BBC Sounds) which would compete with my own Fun Kids. Whilst bringing more focus to children’s radio would be good, the scale of their ad-free operation and promotional power would have left me very worried.
Whilst I feel that the Globals and Bauers of this world should be able to stand-up against the BBC’s competition, I do worry about someone like the independent Boom Radio. They have made a big success financially and in ratings by doing something different and putting their own money with their mouth is. To see the BBC create a service for this audience seems a little off.
It’s also interesting that the Public Interest Test is for the DAB+ broadcast, not for the stations, as they plan to launch them all on BBC Sounds later this year anyway.
Like I’ve said though. Two things can both be right. Yes, the BBC should cater for all licence-fee payers but yes, they should also be careful about who they tread on whilst doing it.