Background:
This article was published in the Radio Journal and was a result of some research I conducted in collaboration with my BCMCR colleague Andrew Dubber. Together we explored the provision of specialist music services for radio and online by the BBC in relation to fan practices online.
Andrew has a long background in radio from his native New Zealand and continues to teach radio programming modules in the undergraduate curriculum at BCU. He has recently written a book, Radio in the Digital Age, due to be published by Polity in 2013, and has published and presented extensively on the role of new technologies in the music industries. As such Andrew was an ideal partner in this area of research, and we later expanded our work here to conduct a study of online fan activity and its possible impact on the live music sector.
I have conducted research into specialist music communities with my colleague Simon Barber, and have published a number of articles regarding the production of music-related programming within the BBC. This particular piece of research explores themes at the heart of the intellectual mission of the BCMCR, in particular issues related to production, regulation and enterprise.
The use of internet and social media technologies by fans as a cultural practice is an emerging theme of work being carried out by BCMCR researchers. Jon Hickman and Inge Lise Bore have published work on the use of Twitter by fans of the US TV show, The West Wing, whilst Dave Harte and Jermone Turner’s emerging body of work on Hyperlocal journalism is posing questions regarding the changing nature of professional and personal practice in the online space. As a centre we will continue to look at how the use of technology has an impact on notions of work and professionalism, and the role of cultural practices in shaping production, regulation and enterprise activity.
Abstract:
This article reports on a study into the implications of the development of online fan communities for specialist music broadcasting on the domestic radio stations controlled by the United Kingdom’s publically funded the British Broadcasting Company. In particular it focuses on jazz, soul reggae/urban and indie rock. The early sections explore ideas of specialist music and their role in the development of the idea of public service broadcasting within the United Kingdom. This is followed by an analysis of the activities and communities of specialist music fans online. The final section reports on the way the BBC organizes the production of radio and online media around specialist music forms. We also outline our proposals on modularization and dissemination of content, the exploitation of the tasteleadership of the stations’ presenters and experts, and the possible ways in which changes in the production of programmes could serve broadcast and online media.
The study concludes that the BBC places the support of specialist music as a key argument in defence of their role as a public service broadcaster, and thus for public funds, as well as demonstrating significant policy and organizational support for the implications of new online media. However, we argue that an appreciation of the place of radio and online media in specialist fan culture is not the basis for organizing production. This results in two orientations amongst staff: a broadcast one built around the centrality of the station brand and an emergent interactive one built around the potential of the new media and the BBC as a provider of public service media.

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Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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