As the effects of cost-cutting due to the BBC’s latest licence fee settlement take effect in Radio 3’s weekend schedule, the organisation’s director general has announced plans including an extra 20% investment in arts television programming and affirmed his intention to give BBC Music the same brand identity as BBC News and BBC Sport.
Radio 3 has been operating under its new weekend schedule since 28 September. Changes have included extending the Live in Concert strand to Saturdays and Sundays, a new film programme on Saturdays presented by Matthew Sweet, more consistent scheduling for jazz programmes and an extra half-hour for new music programme Hear and Now ‒ but have seen the loss of world music programme World Routes and the paring of the Early Music Show to only once a week.
‘Arts programming sits right at the heart of the BBC and is a vital part of who we are,’ Tony Hall said as he launched his vision for the organisation in a speech entitled Where Next?. ‘But I want us to be much more ambitious. We need to showcase more of the incredible talent that this country has to offer to the widest possible audiences.’
Plans include a new arts brand, BBC Arts at…, which ‘will take viewers to the heart of live music, theatre and arts events across the country’ in the form of live performance broadcasts, artist interviews and even opening night exhibition guides. The BBC has said it will work with a wide range of arts organisations including Tate, the British Museum, the National Theatre and Manchester International Festival for this strand.
A new BBC Music Awards will be developed, building on the existing BBC Introducing, Young Musician, and Radio 3 New Generation Artists. ‘Every year we’ll bring them together so that the stars of the future get their chance to perform and shine on the biggest stage,’ said Hall.
He also announced a plan which could bring together the schools work of the BBC’s orchestras: ‘We’ll launch a nationwide initiative to inspire school children with classical music, using our orchestras to bring the music to life.’
The Space, the BBC and Arts Council’s online arts platform piloted since the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and curated by former BBC classical music television head Peter Maniura, is to be relaunched in Spring 2014 ‘as a dynamic new space for artists and audiences to invent and explore brilliant digital art’. This will include a rolling programme of open calls to artists, and support and mentoring links with partners through Creative Scotland, Arts Councils of Wales and Northern Ireland, the BFI and British Council. It will also co-commission ‘large, ambitious digital projects with cultural organisations’.
He also made a commitment to quality over populism which could give hope to classical music devotees: ‘The BBC has always wanted to make the good popular and the popular good. It’s right to do this. But the good doesn’t always have to be popular.’
Overall the plans, Hall said, aimed ‘for BBC Music to be a brand that stands proudly alongside BBC News or BBC Sport’.
The BBC said it would be discussing the ideas outlined in Tony Hall’s speech at a series of audience events around the country in the coming months. Details of these meetings and of other ways audiences can share their views on the BBC can be found at the new BBC Where Next website: www.bbc.co.uk/wherenext