Just in: BBC orders a review of classical music activities – Slipped DiscSlipped Disc

Norman Lebrecht

February 03, 2022

In search of departmental cuts as the government freezes its income, the BBC has targeted classical music for a “review” – a blanket formula for bad medicine.

The headline in a press release is usually euphemistic: “BBC looks at impact of pandemic and seeks opportunities to expand access to classical music for all.”

The following was written by Patrick Holland; Director of facts, arts and classical music

Here is the plan:

Since the creation of the BBC 100 years ago, classical music has been a major part of our purview. Whether it’s our most important sponsor of neoclassical works and supporting cutting-edge talent, or our adventurous concerts from BBC orchestras and choirs in hard-to-reach areas. Or our projects to rewrite the classical music canon representing unfairly forgotten composers on BBC Radio 3, our shows and documentaries on TV, our educational activism and extensive outreach. And of course, we’re home to the largest classical music festival in the world – BBC Proms. All of this is important public service work. Our footprint is international, at the UK level, across the delegated countries and regionally in England. Much of what we are doing is only possible by working with partners across the classic world, and we know that over the past few years many venues, support organizations, talent, administrators, groups, and more have been affected by the impact of Covid. 19.

The effects on the cultural sector are still being felt. Add a rapidly changing digital landscape, as audiences find new ways to access classical music and there has never been a more crucial time to understand the BBC’s role in the UK’s classical music ecosystem. Classical musical performance, creativity, and organization are enshrined in our charter, they help make us totally unique, a role we take great pride in. The questions are how do we plan better for the next decade, to ensure we retain our unique niche, reaching existing audiences with the ambition to attract new audiences as well?

Given all these factors, and particularly on our anniversary, we want to assess and explore the current state of the UK classical music sector, the role of the BBC in it and how we can continue to get the most audience and cultural value from our classical music collection. We will be reviewing our activity in the coming weeks, and seeking input from our teams as well as various partner organizations, to hear their thoughts on how best to work together in the future. The review will also include audience and market analysis, exploring ways for the BBC to reach people across the UK in countries and regions, encouraging more diversity and developing new talent. We also hope to identify new opportunities to expand access to the BBC classic, including through digital innovation and additional partnerships.

I will be devoting a lot of my time to lead the review over the next couple of months as I am interested in sSeeing what we experience as part of it. After my years running BBC2 and BBC4, I’ve seen how audience habits have changed, and showcasing facts, art and classical music on TV has made me even more appreciative of the unique role our content plays in cultural life across the UK. I will work with Rachel Job, Editorial Director of BBC Content, Alan Davey, Monitor Radio 3, BBC Proms, BBC Orchestra and Choirs; So are the people across the BBC who take part in our classical music activities. We will create a summary of the report for the audience, as well as the plans developed as a result of it.

We are very proud to be one of the most important players in the classical music industry, being a vital part of the British cultural scene and the international scene as well. We’ve achieved this by never remaining in a slump, and always looking at how we can best serve our audience and partners. We want to continue this conversation to ensure the BBC has the greatest impact on audiences; Expand access, education and participation in classical music and open doors for the next generation behind the stick. This review will help us do just that.

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