Destroying BBC Radio One: it’s the same old song

Interviewed for an article in The Sunday Times headlined ‘We’ll sell off Radio 1, say Tories’, Tory shadow broadcasting minister Ed Vaizey said: “Radio 1 is not fulfilling its obligation to its audience. Its median age is those in their thirties when it should aim much more at teenagers and [those in] their twenties. There is then a good argument for the BBC to be rid of Radio 1 and give the commercial sector a chance to use the frequency.”

After attending St Paul’s School and Merton College, Oxford, Vaizey (son of the late Lord Vaizey) worked for the Conservative Party’s Research Department for two years, before training and practising as a barrister. He writes a column for Tatler magazine.

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Poor old Radio 1 is continually misunderstood by the big wigs who never listen to it, but who perpetually want to destroy the appeal of the UK’s only national pop channel. They fail to appreciate that the station is far more than ‘undistinguished Top 40’ radio, as The Sunday Times described it last week.

In its 1986 report on the future of the BBC, the Peacock Committee similarly felt that Radio 1 ‘did not provide a public service in the sense that Radios 3 and 4 very conspicuously do’. More cultural bigots talking rot.

Outside of London, commercial radio stations are as conservative in their choice of pop music as a local church disco. Radio 1 is the only medium to consistently expose new songs, new songwriters and new artists. Where it leads, commercial stations follow like sheep.

Despite no British artist or record company ever being awarded a Queen’s Award for Industry, pop music is undeniably one of this country’s most lucrative exports. Yet subsidies are unheard of for up-and-coming talent to write, record or perform.

Classical music, opera, dance, film, theatre and even jazz are handed untold state grants from so-called ‘arts’ bodies, yet pop music receives nothing. Radio 1 is the closest this country has to a public gallery for new musical talent that would otherwise remain completely unheard. And it manages to attract the biggest radio audience.

As Paul Gambaccini puts it, ‘Radio 1’s strongest claim to legitimacy is that it is the Radio 3 of popular music.’ Even ex-BBC boss Alisdair Milne understands that Radio 1 ‘does things the commercial sector would never do. It has a strong commitment to the creation of new pop music.’ ….. So why are the top cats so determined to destroy the BBC’s most valued asset?

Grant Goddard
City Limits magazine #571, London [excerpt]
17-24 September 1992