Plans to sell NewsWireless to BBC 6 Music fall through...?

by Guy Kewney | posted on 02 March 2010

"Elitist R3 costs more, has a smaller audience (per platform), and also has valid competitors. Seems a more logical cut." So, am I, Guy Kewney, the John Peel of IT writing? Was the PCW column I wrote from the late 70s on, some kind of geek equivalent of "The Old Grey Whistle Test"? Should the BBC close down Radio 3, and not BBC 6Music?

Guy Kewney

You can certainly find plenty of people claiming that 6Music is the re-incarnation of Peelism and that Peel was some kind of apogee of perfection in rock music broadcasting. And thanks to a kindly gesture from my old friend Tebbo, you can find similarly enthusiastic postings about my earlier career.

Flattery apart - which is nice of course! - I'm unhappy about this. I am no rock music buff and frankly, regard the subject with much the same scepticm as sensible people have for high tech worship. "It's there... try to live with it!" and get on with friendships, and growth, and that sort of thing. In both cases.

What bothers me, is a throwaway from an old Twit, suggesting that

"Elitist R3 costs more, has a smaller audience (per platform), and also has valid competitors. Seems a more logical cut."

Of course, to a classical fan, rock music isn't going to rate level with Beethoven, and vice versa. But the remark irritated me, I think, more than it would have done even if I were a rock fan.

For a start, all specialist radio can be called "elitist" by someone who doesn't follow that drummer. Or "dregs" depending on depth of dislike, you could say. But minority interests, like Personal Computer World was when it launched in the 70s, don't need the BBC to make them work.

In my rock ignorance, I suppose the flumpty-leventeen UK radio stations that try to provide a John Peel interface to new, innovative music, seem more valid alternatives to 6Music than they are.

And maybe 6Music is not just unique, but essential. And (in the eyes of my Twit friend) I dare say the vast chasms that I perceive between BBC Radio 3 and its only broadcast rival ("Classic FM!? You're joking!") are equally hard to spot.

I could suggest that to compare the wealth of "serious" music over several centuries with one minor aspect of modern "songs" as Steve Jobs taught us to count it, is just one absurdity; to ignore all the rest of cultural life that R3 offers is just another. That would be my tastes. Others are possibly valid.

But are we really saying that 6Music can only be done by the BBC? And if so, how did personal computing get started without a special BBC channel to promote it?

Look back to the days of the BBC Micro project. Without it, we wouldn't have the Acorn Risc Machine - the universal ARM chip. Without that, would we have genuinely company, fast mobile phones?

And would it matter?

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