The proposal to close BBC 6Music and the Asian Network can undoubtedly be stopped by a sustained and sensible campaign. It is manifestly wrong-headed and unjustified, and rational argument backed by sound evidence can show this. The process for shutting the stations will be a long one, so time is on our side.
Here are the key things that, in my view, the campaign needs to do in order to succeed.
1. Concerted grass-roots action
This is well in-hand, with Twitter campaigning, emails to the BBC Trust, the excellent Facebook group and the online petition. The latter will endure, and is the most important of them all: the existing petition should be supported, and the temptation to set up rival petitions must be resisted, as it will split support and undermine all of them (you can’t add up 15,000 supporters on one and 5,000 supporters on another, as it risks doubel-counting and is not credible for that reason).
2. Contact everyone, all at once
The decision will be taken by the Trust, but will be taken in a political context. Trustees, ministers and MPs all need to be contacted, and all need to know that the others are being contacted – everyone with influence must know that if thy don’t do anything, another group is likely to push them into doing something. More on MPs in a separate post.
3. KEEP IT CIVIL!
This is so important. Nobody likes being shouted at, and the people we need to persuade are no different. If they feel they’re on the receiving end of abuse, they will be antagonised and take the calls for 6Music and the Asian Network to be saved far less seriously. Remember the BBC created these stations in the first place: the aim of the campaign is not to beat the BBC about the head, but to save it from making a mistake: the campaign must present itself as supporting the BBC to deliver the high quality public service broadcasting it says it wants to.
Now is not the time to start talking about not paying the licence fee or other civil disobedience: it can seem a powerful threat, but in the eyes of Trustees will almost certainly make you look like a tosser.
4. Make the arguments clearly and rationally, and back them up with evidence
There are only a few key arguments here, perhaps only two.
The first is that no commercial broadcaster caters for, or ever will cater for, the 6Music and Asian Network audiences. This needs to be backed up: playlist comparisons between 6Music on the one hand and Absolute and XFM on the other (these are the most likely stations to be said to be catering for this audience by supporters of the scrapping proposals) – I’ll have a go at this myself later if nobody’s already done it.
The second is that 6Music and the Asian Network are unjustifiably expensive for the audiences they serve. This can easily be rebutted: while their audiences might not be huge, nor are their budgets. Someone on the Facebook group has already calculated that in terms of annual budget spent compared to weekly listener reach, 6Music is considerably cheaper than 1Xtra and Radio 3, and slightly cheaper than Radios 4 and 5Live.
More posts, with more specifics, to follow.