The BBC has confirmed what will happen to the local BBC Music Introducing shows as cutbacks take place across the broadcaster’s network of local radio stations in England. The current 32 shows will be replaced by 20, although the BBC says all 39 of its local stations will still retain on-site music expertise.
It was announced last year that the BBC would be cutting the amount of local programming on its network of local radio stations, so that local stations in the same region will share content for a chunk of the day. The move is partly to save money but also partly to divert more resources to local online content.
The announcement prompted concerns about the future of the BBC Introducing scheme, which has proven particularly good at supporting new music talent in no small part because of the local shows, the presenters of which have a very close connection to the music scenes in their local area.
While there are national BBC Introducing shows too, it’s the local shows and local presenters that provide the outreach, making the national shows aware of the best new talent they discover.
Many in the music community have expressed concern that losing those close local connections, by having fewer shows each covering a bigger area, will negatively impact on the effectiveness of BBC Introducing, especially away from the bigger cities where schemes like this are all the more important.
Although some had feared that there might be even fewer BBC Introducing shows in the future, the cut from 32 to 20 is still significant, and will likely result in the loss of at least come local connections.
However, the BBC was keen to stress last week that the output of BBC Introducing will actually increase, while each of its local stations will still have music expertise even without a local BBC Introducing show.
The Beeb said in its announcement on the future of Introducing, “for the first time ever these 20 shows will each broadcast twice a week – on Thursday and Saturday evenings – giving up-and-coming musicians a bigger platform and audience than ever before”.
Plus “new bands and artists will also prominently feature in the new ‘Local To Me’ section on BBC Sounds, so people can easily find the latest new music where they live on demand”.
As for maintaining those local connections, “all 39 bases up and down the country will retain music expertise on site to support the production of the programmes and bring in new talent”, and an ‘Introducing Artist Of The Week’ will “feature on all 39 local stations with featured tracks getting peak-time airplay to reach the biggest possible audiences”.
Chris Burns, the BBC’s Controller of Local Audio Commissioning, adds: “The Introducing shows on local BBC stations play an important part in supporting new talent – and will continue to do so – but we know more people are turning to BBC Sounds to listen and we want to do more on there and in our peak daytime schedules to showcase new talent”.
It remains to be seen what impact the cutbacks in local BBC Introducing shows has, and whether the increase in output in terms of the regional shows and online content can effectively fill the gap created.