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UK music organisations share ‘grave concerns’ over future of BBC Introducing

The grassroots platform for new and emerging artists is believed to be under threat

By Joe Goggins

Easy Life on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury 2019
The BBC Introducing stage is a mainstay at Glastonbury. (Photo: Simon Crompton-Reid/Wikimedia Commons)

A number of British music organisations have written to the BBC with “grave concerns” over the future of BBC Introducing. You can read the full letter below.

Last Friday (January 13), reports emerged on social media of proposed changes to local BBC radio services, with Introducing sessions – the corporation’s platform for new and emerging artists – largely handled at a regional level. Local presenters have raised concerns about what the potential cutbacks would mean for the future of Introducing, with a slew of regional shows set to be emerged or scrapped altogether were the plans to move forward. 

“We are currently left wondering what will happen to our local BBC Introducing shows,” BBC Radio London’s Jess Iszatt told NME yesterday (January 17). “We worry that artists, listeners and anyone else who benefits from BBC Introducing as a new music platform will not realise what’s happened until it is too late. Regionalising shows is just one step towards getting rid of them completely, and therefore cutting off a vital platform for new artists to get their music heard.”

Now, in an open letter to BBC chairman Richard Sharp, key industry figures have shared their reservations over the proposals, which, as confirmed by the corporation, would include the axing of 48 jobs across local staffing in England. “BBC Introducing programming directly addresses the core aims of the BBC, acting in the public interest, serving all audiences and delivering impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain,” wrote the representatives, who include Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE, and Silvia Montello, the CEO of the Association of Independent Music.

“Despite this, we understand that the entire network of presenters and producers has been placed on notice of potential redundancies, and that the programmes they create may be under threat as a result of wider cuts to the BBC’s network of local radio stations,” they went on. “We want to impress on you very strongly that this would be a fundamental blow to the health of the entire grassroots sector. New and emerging artists already face significant obstacles to breaking into the music industry, challenges that are amplified for those artists and musicians living outside of the major cities.” 

“BBC Introducing has been essential in providing access routes into the industry, with local and regional opportunities available right across the country,” they concluded. “Please can we have your urgent assurance that you and the BBC Board understand the vital role of BBC Introducing.” In a response to the letter, the corporation appeared to confirm its intentions to move regional programming away from conventional airwaves and towards its BBC Sounds online platform. “Our new local radio schedules will be announced in due course but they will not compromise the essence of BBC Introducing,” a spokesperson insisted. 

We’re committed to maintaining dedicated support for discovering and sharing the work of new talent at each of our 39 local radio stations. Local radio will continue to celebrate local artists and be an entry point for talent. We need to acknowledge the changing listening habits of audiences and the intention is to reach even more people. Every local radio station has a place on BBC Sounds which has a fixed Introducing slot featuring prominently with more content than radio schedules could ever accommodate.”