UK live music groups pen open letter to save BBC Introducing

A group of music organisations have shared “grave concerns” with the BBC over fears that BBC Introducing – a scheme to support up-and-coming musical talent – is to be scrapped.

In a letter to BBC’s chairman, Richard Sharp, a group of representatives asked for assurance that BBC Introducing would be protected amid cuts to local stations. The ‘Introducing’ platform has helped to launch the careers of artists including George Ezra, Ed Sheeran and Florence + The Machine.

Those writing the letter – including including Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE and the CEO of the Association of Independent Music, Silvia Montello – said BBC Introducing plays a “vital role” in supporting new musical talent in the UK.

The representatives wrote in their letter: “BBC Introducing programming directly addresses the core aims of the BBC, acting in the public interest, serving all audiences and delivering impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”

They added: “Despite this, we understand that the entire network of presenters and producers has been placed on notice of potential redundancies, and that the programmes they create may be under threat as a result of wider cuts to the BBC’s network of local radio stations.”

Last week (January 13), BBC Local radio presenters took to Twitter to announce that there may be some significant changes made to BBC Introducing programming. Proposals seen by the presenters suggest that, if approved, 21 of the network’s individual local radio shows across England and the Channel Islands may either merge or cease to exist entirely, and the rest of support for artists may be shifted online.

“We are currently left wondering what will happen to our local BBC Introducing shows,” explains BBC Radio London presenter Jess Iszatt, who was an early champion of both Loyle Carner and Celeste on her weekly show. “We worry that artists, listeners and anyone else who benefits from BBC Introducing as a new music platform will not realise what’s happened until it is too late. Regionalising shows is just one step towards getting rid of them completely, and therefore cutting off a vital platform for new artists to get their music heard.”

The letter from the representatives went on to say that scrapping the programme would prove “a fundamental blow to the health of the entire grassroots sector”.

They continued: “New and emerging artists already face significant obstacles to breaking into the music industry, challenges that are amplified for those artists and musicians living outside of the major cities.

“BBC Introducing has been essential in providing access routes into the industry, with local and regional opportunities available right across the country.

“Whatever reorganisation might be required to meet the demands of the future stability and viability of the BBC, it should not be the case that BBC Introducing is the unintended victim of those changes.”

The letter concluded by asking Sharp to offer “urgent assurance” that he and the broadcaster’s board “understand the vital role of BBC Introducing”.

In response to the letter, a BBC spokesperson later said: “Our new local radio schedules will be announced in due course but they will not compromise the essence of BBC Introducing.

“We‘re committed to maintaining dedicated support for discovering and sharing the work of new talent at each of our 39 local radio stations. Local radio will continue to celebrate local artists and be an entry point for talent.

“We need to acknowledge the changing listening habits of audiences and the intention is to reach even more people. Every local radio station has a place on BBC Sounds which has a fixed Introducing slot featuring prominently with more content than radio schedules could ever accommodate.

“We also regularly feature Introducing tracks and artists on breakfast shows and that will continue too.”

English Teacher perform at Glastonbury. Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

Speaking to NME about the situation facing Introducing, Lewis Whiting, guitarist of Leeds’ English Teacher, said that the continued support they have received from BBC Introducing was “invaluable” to their career. “It’s the main thing local bands strive for: you can see that, from the past, local BBC Introducing airplay has produced results and made bands’ careers more tangible. It gave us a future.”

Hertford band Moa Moa received their first ever radio play on BBC Introducing Beds, Herts & Bucks show. Their drummer Matt Taylor told NME: “When you’re putting yourself out there, receiving some validation of your work from a local BBC Introducing show can be a really important milestone.”

You can read more about the issues facing BBC Introducing here.

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