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BBC 6 Music is one of the BBC's digital radio stations, launched on 11 March 2002 and originally codenamed Network Y. It was the first national music radio station to be launched by the BBC in 32 years.
It is only available via digital media: DAB radio, the Internet, various forms of digital television and across northern Europe via the Astra 2D satellite. The station plays "Alternative rock|alternative" genres of music, including |indie, classic rock, punk, jazz, funk and hip hop. It generally provides an alternative to the more mainstream, chart-oriented BBC Radio 1. BBC 6 Music is the sister station of Radio 2.
As one founding premise of the station, many BBC 6 Music shows make significant use of the extensive BBC session and live music archives belonging to the BBC (including the impressive "Peel Sessions" put together by the late John Peel and dating from the late 1960s to his death).
There are also intimate live music in-studio sessions with contemporary artists, somewhat reminiscent of "unplugged sessions", on a number of shows, but especially in the 6 Music "hub" pioneered by the presenter Gideon Coe on his morning show, and also right in the broadcast studio on the Evening Sequence show with Tom Robinson.
Another founding premise is that there is a high level of live, on-air interactivity with the listening audience, both active and passive, making use of the modern technological tools available, such as the World Wide Web, text messaging, emails and the like. Listeners can frequently in vivo decide which upcoming songs will or won't be played on shows.
In the early days the station's presenters were generally regarded as experts in their musical field. Their sophistication and the interactivity afforded to listeners is reflected in the station's slogan, "closer to the music that matters."
BBC 6 Music was originally formally proposed publicly in October 2000 as one of the new "digital-only" radio stations, and codenamed "Network Y" as a working title ("Network X" was later to become BBC 1Xtra and "Network Z" to be BBC 7).
It was to be the sister station of the established analog broadcast rock and roll station, BBC Radio 2.
The 2000-2001 BBC Annual Report & Review to Parliament described the proposed station as "Focusing on the popular music of the last 30 years. It will draw on the BBC's unique archive of musical performance, concerts, documentaries and interviews".
Pre-launch BBC descriptions of the station categorised its intentions: "Bringing you today's most influential and iconic artists, essential album tracks plus classic sessions ... 6 music will provide a hip, credible music mix that's unavailable elsewhere on UK radio ... 6 Music is a station for people who are passionate about pop and rock music. Expect a rich mix of contemporary and classic artists".
It also promised a hook-up into the digital age in radio, with online music chatrooms during live broadcasts, in-studio webcams, etc.: "6 music will set the tone for the way we listen to and interact with radio in a digital world. As well as the ability to listen online from wherever you are in the world, 6 music will offer chatrooms run by presenters, in-depth debate on message boards, live chats with guest bands and artists, email and SMS communication with the 6 music team throughout the day, and a webcam view of daily life in the studio."
BBC 6 Music also promised that recorded classic live rock sessions from the past forty years of BBC sound archives would be a treasure trove for listeners and a unique feature.
It opened at 7am, Monday, 11th March, 2002, with the Breakfast Show presented by Phill Jupitus. It was broadcast from the BBC's Broadcasting House in London.
The original lineup of presenters on launch day included Phill Jupitus, Gideon Coe, Liz Kershaw, Andrew Collins, Tom Robinson, Janice Long, Chris Hawkins, Gary Burton, Craig Charles, Stuart Maconie, Brinsley Forde, Suggs, Clare McDonnell, Bruce Dickinson, Tracey MacLeod, Sean Hughes, and Bob Harris.
In March 2006, BBC 6 Music moved its studios from Broadcasting House to newly built studios in the adjacent Western House.
Nominations and awards
BBC 6 Music was awarded the Best Digital Radio Station of the year 2005 by the BT Digital Music Awards (DMA), and in September 2006, BBC 6 Music was again nominated for Best Radio Station as part of the DMAs, the BT Digital Music Awards 2006.
Several of BBC 6 Music's presenters and shows have won Sony Radio Academy Awards. For example in 2006 "6 Mix" (a late-night dance/electronica show) was nominated for The Specialist Music Programme Award and presenter Marc Riley won a Silver award for The Music Radio Personality of the Year.
In 2007, BBC 6 Music was nominated for the "Radio Station of the Year" in the Music Week Awards.
Ratings and listenership
The station's listenership has been growing in number, and the 2 February 2006 RAJAR ratings show that it had increased its listenership nearly 50% in the previous year. In October 2006, The Guardian reported that BBC 6 Music's listenership was again gaining significantly, and that the station showed the largest increase in listenership in the BBC according to the Q3 2006 RAJAR ratings. The BBC have reported that this has been largely attributed to Russell Brand joining the station in March 2006. "A 40% rise in listeners to BBC digital radio station 6 Music is being largely attributed to host Russell Brand. The station now attracts a weekly audience of 400,000, according to industry ratings body Rajar. 'It has been good for digital radio to have a star like Russell presenting on 6 Music. He really is at the top of his form,' said controller Lesley Douglas." Brand left the station in November 2006.
In an article in the Independent, (London), 23 May 2005, by Ian Burrell, entitled "ANALYSIS: RADIO: Lend them your ears", the author thus describes BBC 6 Music:
"BBC 6 MUSIC
Expect: New Order, Blur (band)|Blur, British Sea Power
A great station for the music cognoscenti, it has the feel of an indie record shop where they know every record ever made, who produced it, who played on it, what label it was on and who designed the sleeve. That's maybe why some women say it's 'too blokey'. Star DJs include Steve Lamacq and Bruce Dickinson. Liz Kershaw and Jane Gazzo try to correct any imbalance. The best thing is Dream Ticket, where you imagine you're at some of the greatest gigs ever."
- Network Controller: Lesley Douglas
- Head Of Programmes: Ric Blaxill
Presenters and shows
- Craig Charles — Funk & Soul Show
- Gideon Coe — Weekday mid-mornings
- Julie Cullen & Imran Ahmed — The Music Week
- Bruce Dickinson — Rock Show
- Bob Dylan — Theme Time Radio Hour
- Guy Garvey — Sunday evenings
- Chris Hawkins — Night Train
- Jon Holmes — Saturday afternoons
- Russell Howard — Sunday mid-mornings
- Shaun Keaveny — Breakfast Show
- Liz Kershaw — Saturday mid-mornings
- Steve Lamacq — Teatime
- George Lamb — Dream Ticket
- Don Letts — Fridays at midnight
- Stuart Maconie — Freak Zone
- Clare McDonnell — Weekends overnight
- Stephen Merchant — Sunday afternoons
- Natasha Desborough|Natasha — Weekend Breakfast Show
- Nemone — Weekday afternoons
- Queens of Noize — Queens of Noize Sonic Safari
- Marc Riley — Brain Surgery
- Tom Robinson — Evening Sequence (Mondays & Tuesdays)
- Philippa Treverton-Jones — 6 Music Chart
- Russell Brand
- Gary Burton (DJ)|Gary Burton
- Brinsley Forde
- Andrew Collins (writer)|Andrew Collins
- Jane Gazzo — Jane Gazzo's Dream Ticket
- Bob Harris (radio)|Bob Harris
- Sean Hughes (comedian)|Sean Hughes
- Phill Jupitus
- Phil Kennedy
- Janice Long — Dream Ticket
- Jayne Middlemiss
- Tracey MacLeod
- Vic McGlynn
- Eddie Piller
- Andrew Purcell
- Suggs (singer)|Suggs (Graham McPherson from the band Madness (band)|Madness)