Labour MP suggests BBC 6 Music should replace BBC Radio 3 on FM

Tuesday 14th October 2014

Earlier today Labour MP Tom Watson has been reported suggesting that BBC radio 3 should give up its FM slot to Radio 6 Music.

Since the threat of closure four years ago, digital-only station 6 Music has enjoyed a huge increase in audience numbers. In July the BBC released figures for the previous quarter showing, for the first time, BBC 6 Music overtaking BBC Radio 3 in listener figures. BBC Radio 3, which is available on both digital and analogue platforms, had an audience of 1.88 million per week. This is down 5.6% from the same time last year and down 9.7% on the previous quarter. However, BBC 6 Music attracted 1.89 million listeners per week – a 5.5% increase on the same time in the previous year.

Watson’s argument explains that as BBC 6 Music is able to top BBC Radio 3 solely on the digital platform, giving it an FM space would increase its audience even further. He said: “It does strike me if the Radio 3 audience continues to diminish and BBC 6 Music continues to grow its audience, the BBC should seriously consider it, they must put it on their agenda.” He also comments that he is in no way suggesting the closure of BBC Radio 3, but highlights that it may be becoming a “niche station” and might be better suited to the digital-only platforms to make way for newer, more popular stations.

Despite the steady decline in BBC Radio 3’s audience numbers the BBC have assured listeners that they “are very proud of both stations and think they are working brilliantly for listeners as they are.” They are also confident that the figures for the next quarter will show improvement after the broadcast of The Proms over the summer months on BBC Radio 3.

BBC 6 Music is a digital-only station and so its listenership is obviously more used to that platform. As a channel it is produced and packaged with that in mind so would adding it to the analogue platform allow it to gain much more? BBC Radio 3’s audience, despite not increasing over the past few years, has managed to hold on to its percentage of listeners. Year on year more people in the UK are tuning into the radio and BBC Radio 3 are still maintaining 4% of the audience. Ivan Hewitt points out that Radio 3 are clearly doing something right, but in order to keep and gain listeners they will have to do something to allow for our “constant shifts in culture” whilst still maintaining integrity as a station that provides “high culture and classical music”.

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