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

Norman Lebrecht

February 03, 2022

Seeking ministerial cuts as the government freezes its revenues, the BBC has targeted classical music for an ‘overhaul’ – a catch-all formula for nasty medicine.

The title of the press release is usually an understatement: “BBC to review impact of pandemic and seek opportunities to expand access to classical music for all”.

The following is written by Patrick Holland; Director, Factual, Arts & Classical Music

Here is the schedule:

Since the founding of the BBC 100 years ago, classical music has been central to our mission. Whether it’s us being the most important patron of new classical works and supporting cutting-edge talent, or our adventurous concerts by BBC Orchestras and Choirs in hard-to-reach areas. Or our projects to rewrite the classical music canon depicting unjustly forgotten composers on BBC Radio 3, our television performances and documentaries, and our extensive learning and outreach activity. And of course, we’re home to the biggest classical music festival in the world: the BBC Proms. This is all such important public service work. Our footprint is international, UK-wide, across devolved nations and regionally in England. Much of what we do is only possible by working with partners in the classical world, and we know that over the past few years, many venues, supporting organizations, talents, administrators, ensembles and many more others have been hit hard by the impact of Covid. 19.

The effects on the cultural sector are still being felt. Add to that a rapidly changing digital landscape, with audiences finding new ways to access classical music and there’s never been a more important time to understand the BBC’s role in the music ecosystem. classical music in the UK. The performance, creation and preservation of classical music is an integral part of our charter, it contributes to our total distinction, and it is a role of which we are extremely proud. The questions are how best to plan for the next decade, to ensure we maintain our unique position of reaching existing audiences while being ambitious to attract new ones as well?

Given all of these factors, and particularly in this anniversary year, we want to take stock and explore the current state of the UK classical music industry, the role of the BBC in it and how we can continue to make the most of the audience and cultural value of our classical music portfolio. We will be reviewing our activity in the coming weeks, seeking input from our own 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, and explore ways for the BBC to reach people across the UK in nations and regions, encourage greater diversity and develop new talents. We also hope to identify new opportunities to broaden access to the BBC’s classic offering, including through digital innovation and additional partnerships.

I will be spending a lot of my time leading the review over the next two months and am interested in ssee what we come across as part of it. After my years at the helm of BBC2 and BBC4 I have seen how audience habits have changed, and my time spent leading Factual, Arts and Classical Music in TV has made me appreciate more the unique role our content plays in cultural life across the UK. I will be working with Rachel Jupp, Editorial Manager of the BBC Content Division, and Alan Davey, Controller Radio 3, BBC Proms and BBC Orchestras and Choirs; as well as people from the BBC involved in our classical music activities. We will make public a summary of the report, as well as the plans developed following it.

We are extremely proud to be one of the most important players in the classical music industry, an integral part of the British cultural landscape and the international scene. We have achieved this by never stagnating, always thinking about how best to serve our audience and our partners. We want to continue this conversation to ensure that the BBC has the greatest impact on audiences; expanding access, education, participation in classical music and opening doors for the next generation behind the baton. This review will help us do that.

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