Radio in Scotland, and elsewhere, is in turmoil. BBC Radio Scotland is, it seems, axing three of its evening specialist shows – Pipeline, Jazz Nights and Classics Unwrapped.
The result of reductions in funding, the planned cuts have been met with dismay by their respective musical communities. The news about Jazz Nights in particular seems unfortunately-timed, with Fergus McCreadie having won the Scottish Album of the Year Award as well as receiving a Mercury Prize nomination. Celebrated saxophonist Tommy Smith has launched a petition to save Jazz Nights, and the popular Sunday night show – presented by Seonaid Aitken, currently on tour with the reformed Delgados – also saw a gathering of musicians and other supporters on the steps of Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall for a photo inspired by the famous New York jazz photo ‘A Great Day in Harlem’.
Similarly, renowned composer Sir James MacMillan has established a petition to save Classics Unwrapped.
And Simon McKerrell and Finlay MacDonald have also called on music lovers to help save the popular traditional music show Pipeline.
The corporation is also, it seems, dispensing with the services of the presenters of BBC Introducing – a network of 32 shows tied to local radio stations across the UK, which all feed into the BBC Introducing website and to Tom Robinson’s 6music show, amongst other channels. The veteran presenter is collating messages of support on his own Fresh on The Net website.
Artists such as Florence + The Machine, Ed Sheeran, Little Simz and Lewis Capaldi, have got their first breaks on Introducing shows, but it is believed that the planned cuts could reduce the total number of shows to just 11. However, there is no indication at present that Radio Scotland’s Friday night Introducing show will also be subjected to these changes.
Despite its interest to Scottish listeners, Pipeline is unlikely to be picked up by any of the local stations under the Bauer Media umbrella. The German-owned company, which controls seven stations, is now rebranding these as Greatest Hits Radio. At present Clyde 2, Forth 2, MFR 2, Northsound 2, Tay 2, West Sound in Ayrshire, and West Sound in Dumfries & Galloway are largely driven by syndicated content from a central studio, but the rebranding exercise will also introduce common breakfast and drivetime shows. The former will, it seems, continue to be presented by Ewen and Cat (who they? Ed.).
Ironically, it may be that the only other Scottish voice to be heard on the new station(s) will be that of Radio 2 stalwart Ken Bruce, who has announced that he will move to Greatest Hits Radio in March to present the corresponding mid-morning show. The 71-year-old Glasgow-born broadcaster – pictured with Simple Minds for some vaguely Scottish alternative music-related context – is leaving the BBC after 31 years of presenting the station’s mid-morning weekday show – citing “new opportunities”, despite recently stating that he would never leave his show in a recent interview. Though whether morning music quiz Popmaster will come as part of the package in unclear…