New After Dark 'zone' featuring existing speech and music programming, a new world music programme, and some new presenters.
Now I'm on the outside of the BBC 'pissing in' so to speak, receiving an announcement about schedule changes on Radio 3 feels like I'm in receipt of the deputy headmaster's new lesson timetable.
Such a comment isn't as disingenuous as you might think. For the first time in a long long time, I find I appreciate knowing in advance what the changes are. I may not listen to Radio 3 as slavishly as I used to, seeing the lengths the BBC's PR team go to make sure everyone's up-to-speed on what's about to happen either shows respect for the audience or a fear of abandonment.
What are the changes?
For those of us interested in the mechanics of broadcasting, there are some interesting observations to be made. But before I can make them, I need to flag what the evening schedule on BBC Radio 3 is going to look like from April onwards.
– Live (or 'recorded as live') music weekdays at 7.30pm;
– After Dark is the new banner for existing speech programming, weekdays from 10pm;
– Late Junction three nights a week;
– Jazz programme called J to Z one night a week;
– World on 3 renamed to Music Planet* one night a week;
– Drama on a Sunday night now from 7.30pm;
– Sunday night discussion slow Unclassified focussing on music topics;
– Through the Night remains;
– Saturday Classics gets rebadged as Inside Classics (it remains the same programme in content);
– Roddie Williams hosts Choir and Organ while Sara Mohr-Pietsch is on maternity leave.
You can surmise quite a lot from a BBC press release if you read between the lines. A few thoughts arise from this latest schedule change announcement.
– Consolidating programmes into broadcast 'zones' means Radio 3 can communicate what it offers in terms of content type.
– By talking about content types the BBC is hinting at the direction of travel for all of its output – 'content' rather than radio, tv, and digital. This prepares the ground for any future strategy that seeks to replace the Licence Fee with a subscription model.
– The new Sunday night discussion programme Unclassified sounds like a much-needed format – if it reflects discussions in the digital space then
– There's an additional 'Mixtape' element (30-minute playlists of specially 'curated' music), this time for Music Planet. That means less presenter time, which in turn means less money spent. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. One the one hand, there's an argument that just playing music isn't sufficient when exposing audiences to a wide range of music isn't sufficient, and that contextualisation from a presenter adds value. On the other hand, presenter choice is a very difficult thing – there are already a handful of nauseating presentation styles which succeed in alienating.
– Defining Radio 3 has always been relatively straightforward for those of us who know and love it. I think Radio 3 have found a neat way of communicating exactly what it is.
– Classic FM
– Radio 3 feels like an entirely different station from when Roger Wright was Controller. It's not better or worse, just very different. Right now it feels less awkward and possibly more comfortable with its distinctiveness.