DCSIMG

Analysis: Programme’s problem is that it is simply too popular

  • by KEN GARNER
 

YOU can see the logic of it, from BBC Radio Scotland’s point of view. “We’ve got to save some money. The person whose show we’re axing and the indie production company making it will still have other work from us, so we’re clearly not being nasty.

And we’ve recently been told by our bosses, the BBC Trust, to focus on speech during daytime and culturally-specific music in the evenings. No brainer”.

But axing Janice Forsyth’s Saturday morning show is a sign of something else as well. Setting aside coverage of Scottish football, BBC Radio Scotland has always been slightly uncomfortable with producing anything that turns out to be popular.

It’s not just that commercial radio and the BBC Trust keep telling it not to play the same records as Radio Forth, Real Radio, Galaxy or Moray Firth Radio, or that the trust and various tedious political pressure groups, not limited to Holyrood or Westminster, insist the BBC in Scotland plays more “distinctive” music, including “music made in Scotland” – as if it doesn’t do that already.

Those may seem two more good reasons, by the way, why Janice’s show is an easy sacrifice for management to make. The records she played could often be heard on other stations and the show did not exactly champion traditional Scottish folk music.

No, the terrible truth is that BBC Radio Scotland just does not get pop music. It never has, it never will. The network’s history is littered with the ghosts of original pop and rock shows that became unexpected cult hits – Beat Patrol, Bite The Wax, Electronica – only to be axed, and replaced by something more bland.

Janice’s Saturday show may not have been cool enough to rest in that honourable list of the fallen. But people did like it. And that was its crime.

To be fair, BBC Radio Scotland still has at least one really excellent pop music show, Iain Anderson. But Tom Morton, host of the last daytime show with any music, should be worried.

• Ken Garner, of Glasgow Caledonian University, is a radio critic and author.

 

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