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BBC Trust rejects 6 Music closure plan
The BBC Trust has rejected the BBC’s plans to close the digital radio station 6 Music.
In his initial response to the BBC strategy review, BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said that the case for the closure of 6 Music had not been made.
He said the trust – which represents the interests of licence fee payers – would consider closing 6 Music only as part of a wider strategy on the future of digital radio.
But the trust accepted plans to close the Asian Network, cut 25% of the online budget and close teen service Blast!
A high-profile campaign to save 6 Music was set up after a strategic review of the BBC’s services was announced in March.
The planned closures identified in the review needed the approval of the BBC Trust.
Coldplay, who spoke out in support of 6 Music, sent their congratulations to the station, saying it played "a crucial and unique role in British music".
La Roux singer Elly Jackson told BBC Radio 5 live she was "extremely excited" by the decision.
"You always feel slightly ignored, like the individual can’t have any effect on these things, but when things like this happen, you think maybe we can," she said.
6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne expressed her delight on Twitter: "6Music has been saved. Hooooorrrayyyyy!"
The trust published its initial conclusions to the strategy review alongside the BBC’s Annual Report.
The trust said: "As things stand, the case has not been made for the closure of 6 Music.
"The executive should draw up an overarching strategy for digital radio. If the director general wanted to propose a different shape for the BBC’s music radio stations as part of a new strategy, the trust would consider it.
"The trust would consider a formal proposal for the closure of the Asian Network, although this must include a proposition for meeting the needs of the station’s audience in different ways."
The trust noted the 6 Music audience was 600,000 a week at the time of the review, but had since risen to one million listeners.
It noted the "significant show of public support" there had been since the closure plan was announced.
It said 78% of the online responses to the public consultation had focused on 6 Music.
Musicians including David Bowie, Lily Allen and Damon Albarn also lent their support when the closure was tabled.
Much of the UK music industry mobilised to throw its weight behind the station, saying its closure would remove a key outlet for musicians and weaken the BBC’s ability to fulfil its charter.
The BPI said it was "delighted that the BBC Trust agreed that the case for closing 6 Music was unconvincing".
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A statement from the music industry association said the trust’s findings "support our case that 6 Music makes a unique contribution to the UK’s cultural life".
It added: "We’ll be watching carefully to ensure the executive’s review of the BBC’s digital radio strategy is not used as cover for a further attempt to close the station."
The BBC Trust’s Sir Michael Lyons said he wanted the BBC to focus on the "much bigger jobs" of looking at the futures of BBC Radios 1 and 2.
"It [6 Music] has opened up a much bigger debate about the need, first, to sort out the greater distinctiveness about the very popular Radios 1 and 2 and to make sure they are more different from each other and different from what’s available in the commercial sector," he told the BBC’s News Channel.
"And even more important, to actually develop a coherent strategy for digital radio, which the BBC can’t do in isolation. It needs to do (that) with government and the commercial sector."
Andrew Harrison, chief executive of RadioCentre, which represents commercial stations, welcomed the trust’s call "to draw up an overarching strategy for digital radio with the commercial sector".
He said: "We are pleased that the BBC Trust has mandated BBC management to deliver greater distinctiveness on Radio 1 and Radio 2 and welcome its call to draw up an overarching strategy for digital radio with the commercial sector."
In its review of TV services, the trust said BBC One should be "more ambitious and distinctive".
It said BBC Two needed to become "a clearer alternative to BBC One, even at the risk of reaching fewer viewers".
Both BBC One and BBC Two in daytime were "not meeting audience expectations" on the delivery of public purposes, the trust said.