BBC Executive Producer Bob McDowell has spoken to 4BR to clarify a number of points raised by our recent news item concerning the alleged demise of the BBC Big Band from the airways of the BBC.
Concerns and opinions
4BR highlighted the concerns and opinions of Malcolm Laycock in a letter to the Guardian newspaper in its Media Section of the 15th December, in which he berated the corporation and Bob McDowell for what he saw as the unilateral decision to take BBC ‘Big Band Special’ radio programme off the air.
Bob told 4BR: "The RPO has been managing the BBC Big Band for almost a year. However, the BBC Big Band has been managed outside of the BBC since 1994 when it ceased to be a full time staff concern.
“The BBC Big Band remains an important part of Radio 2’s output with its own weekly programme Big Band Special."
This means that programmes such as ‘Big Band Special’ and Listen to the Band remain a valued part of BBC Radio 2’s output both now and in the futureBob McDowell
When asked about its future by 4BR, Bob McDowell replied: "As things stand this programme has been commissioned until at least April of 2010. The BBC remains editorially responsible for all aspects of this programme and for the ongoing partnership with the Town Hall, Birmingham.
"This includes the band’s own regular series of concerts at the Town Hall; the first time a big band has enjoyed such status in the UK."
So does the BBC intend to axe the programme 4BR asked?
Bob added: "As far as the Malcolm Laycock programme is concerned this is most definitely not being ‘axed’. The format and emphasis of the programme has changed. British Dance bands of the 1920’s and 30’s will feature less but the programme is and will remain 100% devoted to big band music in all its forms.
"All of the specialist music genres that are covered by BBC Radio 2 are subject to the service agreements agreed between the BBC and the BBC Trust."
Value of the programme
The former ‘Listen to the Band’ Producer also outlined the value of programmes such as the BBC’ Big Band Special’ and ‘Listen to the Band’ to the BBC.
"This means that programmes such as ‘Big Band Special’ and Listen to the Band remain a valued part of BBC Radio 2’s output both now and in the future.
"Listen to the Band is an important outlet for brass bands. The programme gives them a massive level of exposure to a radio audience, many of who would never dream of visiting a brass band contest or concert."
Turning the question
As a final point however, Bob McDowell turned the question of the challenge of producing a programme such as BBC ‘Big Band Special’ and ‘Listen to the Band’ around.
"Weekly exposure at this level presents challenges as well as opportunities. It is often asked ‘what is the BBC doing for brass bands?’ The question asked less frequently is ‘what are brass bands doing for the BBC and its audience?
"Strong creative partnerships, more than anything else, are what will secure the future of programmes like ‘Listen to the Band’ and allow brass bands to show their biggest audience just how much they have to offer."