The BBC is axing ‘After Midnight’, the mainstream music show presented by Janice Long, from Radio 2. Why? To save money. But what about saving music, art and culture? Why are all the places in the creative desert of mainstream media that provide oasis’ for new work disappearing and seeing human curiosity replaced by the chances an algorithm provides? By Alan O’Hare.
Chancer: noun, British, informal. Chancers, plural noun: “… who exploit any opportunity to further their own ends. Example: Prague was full of young chancers, bored with the city… “. There, that’s out of the way. Is this what the BBC has become, a group of kids bored with where they reside? An organisation who no longer feel they have any responsibility to anyone other than their paymasters?
Sure, that’s the way of the world. Fair dos to them. Except, hang on, it’s not. Is it? The BBC is a public service broadcaster and its work is funded (principally) by an annual television licence fee which is charged to all British households, companies and organisations using any type of equipment to receive or record live television broadcasts. In short? They’re paid to provide a service to us – not those looking over their shoulder. And, anyway, what do the Government or the Windsors know about art and culture? Actions speak louder than words and judging by the cuts to libraries, galleries, arts grants and cultural funding over the last decade or so, they know nothing. Certainly not about sustainability, anyway.
That’s what we’re talking about: sustainability. In this instance, with BBC Radio 2 announcing the cost-cutting driven axing of its ‘After Midnight’ show, we’re talking about the sustainability of music. New music. New artists. New music by established, but less popular, artists. Basically, work by those found on the fringes of the mainstream. Make no mistake, ‘After Midnight’ is/was a mainstream show – Janice Long doesn’t play Anal C*nt outtakes or specialise in Grime. Her style doesn’t belong on Radio 6 Music or any other niche station: ‘After Midnight’ belongs on the BBC and should thrive with all the attendant power and pull that banner provides. And help those who provide its content to thrive, too. That’s crucial…
It was the late David Bowie who said that music was on its way to becoming a commodity, “like electricity or running water”. He was right… see: “A relatively small percentage of our audience listens to Radio 2 through the night,” says station head, Lewis Carnie. “We need to make extremely tough decisions to reduce programming costs in order to make savings.” Then make tough decisions at the top! Cut big salaries, not small shows that provide a vital service. True, music isn’t really essential, like water or shelter, but… it is, isn’t it? You carry a soundtrack with you from the cradle to the grave: births, marriages and deaths all come wrapped up in our favourite songs. We attach tunes to people who mean the world to us. We fall in love to ‘our song’ and then go to ‘my song’ when it turns to shit. We punch the air, grab our mates and hug the ones we love to music being played in front of us. We drink to music. In every way. Can we afford to lose all of that? Because, and this is deadly serious, creating new music is on its way to becoming extinct. Pointless. A hollow exercise in vanity.
How is ‘After Midnight’ relevant to that? It’s an oasis in a cultural desert. Music is no longer interesting to the mainstream – but there is a small path still visible through the work of DJs like Long. There are a few of them – and TV shows, magazines, websites, promoters and PR’s just like her. The furrows they plough are getting harder to harvest with every year and the next one being left fallow forever could be fatal. For music. For art. For love. For life… for once in our lives, let’s fight back.
Let’s not let music become an alt-pastime and something to be kept in the corner. Let’s ensure it stays in the mainstream and continues to punch its weight and have its say in the real world. What will Janice’s show be replaced by? Repeats of other shows and “different styles of music through a new strand called ‘Radio 2 Playlists’.” In other words, not a heart beat in sight… just some uncaring chancers with an algorithm created by research that exists to make money for its owner.
Liam Gallagher’s haircut being front page news seems a long time ago. Get that reference and you’ll get this. Let’s stop the rot.
Sign the petition!
‘Reinstate Janice Long & Alex Lester to overnight Radio 2 programmes!’
Pic courtesy cogdogblog