Recently Andrew Dubber and Professor Tim Wall researched the activities of fans of specialist music, and the ways in which they relate to the BBC through interactive and online media. Their findings are now public, and you can read the full report as a PDF document.
This paper presents the findings of a study into the implications for the BBC of the development of online fan communities around forms of specialist music. The investigation covers original research into the online activities of specialist music fans and the way that key BBC staff conceptualise and respond to changes taking places in the environment in which their listeners operate. We also engage with wider debates around ideas of ‘public service broadcasting’ and ‘specialist music’ and draw on the key concepts and frameworks used in academia to understand radio production and programming, music fan activities, and the transformation of both enabled by online technologies.
Central to this investigation is the proposition that provision to fans of differing forms of specialist music has been one of the central ways in which the BBC has been understood to distinguish itself as a public service broadcaster, but that the way in which this provision should be understood, and how this commitment can be maintained, has been transformed by the challenges of operating within the new media space created by online technologies. The paper reports the findings of the primary research through a wider discussion of ideas of ‘public service media’, ‘specialist music fandom’, and ‘online activity’. By placing these ideas in context of the historical development of the BBC and wider music culture, and then recontextualising them in an examination of the ways that ‘specialist music’ and ‘fandom’ operate in the formation of online communities and cultural practices, we reveal the challenges facing BBC staff in reinterpreting ‘public service’ and ‘broadcasting’ in these new, online, media forms.