I imagine we're all searching for tortured analogies to try and describe the Beeb's decision to scrap 6Music. Some may liken it to a self-harming emo trying to draw attention to their greater underlying woes by cutting themselves; others may say it's like a navy scuttling their own ships for a tactical advantage.
For me, the dreadful 1978 Where-Eagles-Dare-in-Africa film The Wild Geese* comes to mind. It's obscured and tortured enough for one of my analogies, anyway. I am particularly thinking of the sequence where a hobbling and wounded Richard Harris, realising he won't make it onto the taxiing plane getting the mercenaries out of their fictional African dictatorship, begs friend Richard Burton to machine-gun him to death, to spare him a far worse death at the hands of the angry troops closing in on him.
Mark Thompson is Richard Burton and 6Music is Richard Harris. Far better, goes the logic, to be humanely despatched by your pal than to be torn to pieces by the angry forces who are looming in the distance.
As I said yesterday, there's a bit of a danger in assuming the need for cutbacks, which this pre-emptive strike by Auntie does. Because then people won't only say "Wait, how could you do that to my beloved 6Music?" but also come along with their own shopping lists of cutbacks. There will always be people who don't like a tax-funded broadcaster at all, others - with very loud voices and of course a platform from which to shout - who don't like quality state-funded competition with their own output, and others who just think the decisions are wrong.
What we don't know is how this will pan out, because a lot will depend on what happens at the general election. And we can all argue about the relative merits of the stations involved - as I've said before, personally 6Music never really troubles me at all, and I can't stand George 'Sacrificial' Lamb. But on the other hand, I spent a pleasant morning listening to live cricket on Radio 4 from Bangladesh, and I'd be mightily pissed off if that sort of thing got chucked out of the window. We've all got likes and dislikes; the question is how many likes should be catered for and whose likes trump other people's likes.
But what I do wonder is how much this decision has opened the door to further snipes at what money gets spent where at the BBC. You can actually see that as a positive thing, in some ways, and this decision has engaged with a demographic who might not ordinarily be concerned with BBC spending or writing to the Trust to put across their views. Quite a cost to pay for that, of course, so it's not been done deliberately to achieve this. Whatever the outcome of consultation over this matter, this won't be the end. The BBC has itself sent out the message loud and clear: We're spending too much. They may have picked a couple of things they regard as being more losable than others, but it might not be their choice as to what goes next. First 6Music and Asian Network and a quarter of the website output, and then what...?
The BBC's enemies - the commercial competitors who want bigger profits - aren't going to be content with just a couple of radio stations and a bit of the website going. Not that anyone thought they would be, I suppose. But they might sense an opportunity, ahead of an election, to make it a big issue, particularly if the Conservatives are planning even bigger cuts if they're returned to power.
Sometimes I just wish the BBC would grow a pair and fight hard for the things it believes in rather than bending over backwards and being hand-wringingly fair to critics who are less than fair when it comes to their attacks. But it appears we're not going to get that. It's not just Richard Harris who's going to get machine-gunned in this. There are a whole lot of people on that runway, struggling to get on that plane before it leaves.
* It really is a bad film. I mean, bad. It hums. When Roger Moore is one of the more restrained and credible performances in a film, you know there's trouble.
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