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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 12:53 GMT
In search of an audience
Jimi Hendrix
Will 6 Music attract frustrated Hendrix fans?
As the BBC's latest digital radio station, 6 Music, goes live BBC News Online looks at what it will offer, and why the corporation is adding another national channel to the airwaves.

Thousands of music fans alienated by the offerings of BBC Radios 1 and 2, and commercial stations across the UK, are sitting around their digital radios as of Monday hooked on 6 Music.

At least, that is what the BBC hopes will be happening.

The launch of 6 Music is intended to fill a hole in the UK's radio offerings, a gap large enough to warrant the launch of a new digital radio station paid for by the licence fee.

A spokeswoman for the station said: "6 Music exists to fill a gap for an audience not catered for at all by any radio station in the country.

"We are playing music that is from the last 40 years but with a much more rock feel.

'Classic artists'

"It is music you do not find on any other radio station. Music by the Clash, Marvyn Gaye, Jimi Hendrix.

"These are classic artists who do not get air time."

Certainly the playlist on day one is impressively diverse - from Travis to Joey Ramone by way of Alanis Morissette, Mick Jagger, Ash and Ian Dury.

Where Radio 1 is described as a "lifestyle channel that plays music", Radio 2 is an "entertainment station with music" 6 Music is "all about the music".

It is not entirely certain who will have the kind of record collection that encompasses such a diverse range of music but in demographic terms the station in pitching at 30 to 45 year olds.

In a wider sense, the launch of the station is part of the BBC's digital strategy, with about 144m put in to such new services in 2000/01.

Radio front

So far, the BBC has launched three new digital TV channels in recent months - CBeebies, CBBC and BBC Four - and has plans for BBC Three, subject to government approval.


We are making a solid investment and once you hear the quality of the playout

Jim Moir, BBC controller 6 Music
On the radio front the corporation has launched BBC Five Live Sports Extra, 6 Music and will soon launch 1Xtra, Network Z (a working title) and will roll out the BBC Asian Network - already on AM in the Midlands - nationwide.

The corporation is spending 5m on digital radio services.

The BBC promises its new services will offer distinctive programming which will not affect its core services, such as BBC One or Radio Five Live.

More than half the UK's population in now has access to multi-channel television, so the BBC is keen to broaden its range of services.

Digital radio has yet to take off in a similar way - partly because of the prohibitive cost of digital receivers, but also because of a lack of awareness about the technology and what it offers.

'Supporting'

The BBC hopes that its new stations will not only serve an audience but also help convince people to take up digital radio for the first time.

"At the moment there are about 50,000 digital radios out there," a BBC spokeswoman said.

"But that is not the only way to listen to it - 6 Music and other BBC digital radio services are also available on digital satellite, digital cable and the internet."

She added: "The BBC is putting its money where its mouth is - supporting digital radio much in the same way we did by supporting and switching to FM."

Controller of Radio 2 and the new station, Jim Moir, said: "We are making a solid investment and once you hear the quality of the playout, I'm sure it will help provide an impetus for further sales as the prices come down."

See also:

11 Mar 02 | Reviews
BBC 6 Music: Your views
02 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Kick-off for Five Live digital
25 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
Gay station leads digital push
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