Today it was announced that BBC Radio 1 has lost one million listeners within the last year, continuing a trend from recent years that has put the station’s very existence in jeopardy. As someone who believes passionately that Radio 1 is an extremely important service to young people, but also someone who rarely actually tunes in, I came up with a list of ideas that could be implemented that would at the very least see one listener (me) return, going from the least to most drastic:
1) Scrap the “Radio 1 Playlist”
It seems to me that the main competitor to Radio 1 is people’s own music collection. In an age where there are so many different forms of entertainment for young people, the only time when the idea of listening to the radio is likely to appeal is when they would otherwise be listening to their own choice of music, be that whilst they are driving, working, cooking etc. With computer memory becoming ever cheaper, and the use of music streaming sites becoming increasingly popular, young people have thousands of songs at their fingertips, making the idea of playing 20 or so songs, from a playlist determined by “tastemakers”, on repeat from the hours of 6am to 7pm seem completely out dated. Any song sounds tedious and boring when it’s heard for the third time in the same day, and so as with everything else in life, variety is key.
2) Allow DJs more control over the music they play
Rather than having DJs press play on pre-determined songs which often seem to have very little relevance to the show going on around them, allow DJs to pick their own music. This would allow each show to have a more personal flavour to it, as DJs share the music they have a passion for with their audience, rather than pressing play on the latest Pitbull track that neither they nor half their listeners have much interest in hearing. This would also go some way to increasing the variety of the music on the station; if Greg James wants to play an obscure Maccabees album track at 4 o’clock in the afternoon because he likes it and he thinks his listeners might like it too, so be it.
3) Overhaul the current schedule
If regular daytime DJs for some reason can’t pick their own music, rearrange the schedule so that shows that do involve a more diverse musical selection, all of which currently take place post 7pm, instead are aired earlier in the day, in order to split up the monotony of pop music show after pop music show. Huw Stephens’ show, which focuses on fresh new musical talent, would be ideal for this; I’d move it to the 1pm to 4pm slot, and whilst I’m at it I’d move Scott Mills to the breakfast show and Nick Grimshaw to 10pm / off the radio altogether. I’m not quite sure when the BBC decided that young people wanted to start off their mornings at 100mph, or why a Marmite character such as Grimshaw was the man to deliver this. Mills could provide a calmer but nonetheless enjoyable start to the mornings, whilst Grimshaw could provide his brand of hyped-up overexcitement at a time when similar type shows, such as Celebrity Juice, are scheduled on TV.
4) Merge with Radio 1xtra
This would certainly be a highly controversial move, but one that in my eyes would provide the variety that Radio 1 is crying out for. As youth culture becomes more and more diverse, it seems naïve that the BBC feel that a fan of The 1975 cannot possibly also be a fan of Skepta, and so therefore there must be two different radio stations aimed at satisfying the needs of these two different types of music fan independently. In fact, Radio 1 seem to play it so safe in terms of the music they play during the day I find it borderline offensive, a problem no better highlighted than the station’s “Dance Anthems” shows on a Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, which tend to focus on the most bland forms of dance music possible, often playing poorly crafted remixes of the very same pop songs that are played at every other hour of the day. At a time when dance music is both engrained in youth culture, and is also incredibly diverse with a wide range of talented producers, this is nothing short of depressing. This problem is not restricted to only dance music, but also many of the other musical genres that 1xtra will play whilst Radio 1 won’t dare touch, and is something that could be fixed by at the very least greater collaboration between the two stations. As an added bonus to all of this, it’s not a bad way of dealing with constant BBC budget cuts, indeed maybe we could even have BBC Three back in return.
5) Stop playing music altogether
At the same time it was announced that Radio 1 has lost a million listeners, it was also announced that Radio 4’s ratings are at a record high. Perhaps then it’s time that Radio 1 gave up trying to fight against your iTunes library and instead adopt a more Radio 4 like approach, forgetting music and replacing it by making programmes, perhaps even radio dramas, aimed specifically at younger audiences. This is far from my ideal choice, but with music playing radio appearing more and more out of place in the 21st century, it may only be a drastic change in direction that can save Radio 1 from the otherwise inevitable scrapheap.
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