Why I hate the BBC (well, a section of it).

Note: This article was intended to be ‘having a go’ at the NME, purely as a way of driving traffic to this site. Yes, they’re awful and have a very poor attitude in general to metal (see their recent baiting of nu-metal). But you know what? Fuck the NME, there are far more worthy targets of my bile and poor wordsmithery. Also please note that the generic term ‘metal’ below is used to refer to all genres of metal/hardcore/death/experimental/post blah blah whatever, before anyone cries.

I don’t want to get all Daily Mail on you but I’m thinking of writing to my MP, MEP, parish councillor or even the Metro letters page. Outrage! Seriously though, I am annoyed. Well, maybe slightly miffed.

Something has always puzzled me. It’s regarding the musical output of the BBC, particularly on its visual platforms. Where is the metal?

There just isn’t any, at all. Saying that, there is very little live music on the BBC full stop. Joooools “Hootenanny” Holland occasionally has something interesting but it’s never metal (Lou Reed & Metallica and Alice in Chains don’t count sorry). The Trans-Atlantic Sessions were very good. I think they did some ‘Guitar Heroes‘ stuff that refers to 70s metal. There was, of course, the 90-minute retrospective Heavy Metal Britannia, although that was a firmly backwards-looking affair. And, um, that’s about it.

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If you take any particular sub-genre within metal, the best thing about it is seeing it live, played by people who love what they do and make very little money doing it. Because of this, there is a credibility to metal that other music simply lacks. Strip back any reference to contemporary metal, and you’ve got yourself a lovely BBC4 show synopsis. So why Mr. BBC, do we not have any shows dedicated to it?

Let’s have a look at the excuses:

Would it really upset middle England? Well no, seeing as the vast majority of ‘metalheads’ are well to do middle Englanders themselves. No way! Shyeah right! Etc. Yes, it pains me to say but I am delightfully middle-class, as are most of my friends who like metal. Those kids with the scary clothes and piercings going through their respective ‘phases’, yup, all middle-class too. So we can mark that excuse off the list.

Would there be an audience for it? Well I’m sure there are as many fans of metal as there are of classical music and we get no end of flag-waving Proms (which always comes across a bit racist/UKIPpy to me). We get coverage of Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds that feature plenty of artists that in terms of popularity/sales (let’s be brutal about this) would be on par or lesser, than established metal acts. I don’t know how many viewers the abysmal Kerrang! channel or any other harder-edged music channels get, but the fact they exist, and have done for quite some time, would suggest that, yes, there is an audience for it.

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Would it suit the ethos of BBC4? The output of BBC4 seems to be directed at the more discerning/intelligent viewer, hence the reams of documentaries and focus on the arts. Yes a lot of metal is stupid but are the likes of Cult Of Luna not worthy of artistic recognition? Here you could insert any band on Neurot, any band from Umeå, technical death/black metal, hardcore (the good stuff, obviously). Pick your favourite band. Them. Do they not fit the bill? I’m not expecting hours dedicated to Slipknot (and I don’t think anyone wants that) but if we can dedicate several hours to the Proms, then why not?

I have snipped this from the BBC Trust section of the BBC website:

The BBC exists to serve the public, and its mission is to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC Trust is the governing body of the BBC, and we make sure the BBC delivers that mission…

…Our job is to get the best out of the BBC for license fee payers.

We set the strategic objectives for the BBC.  We have challenged the BBC to:

  • increase the distinctiveness and quality of output;

  • – improve the value for money provided to license fee payers;

  • – set new standards of openness and transparency; and

  • do more to serve all audiences.

I have emboldended two parts of this ‘mission statement’, which I believe the BBC is failing us on.

Distinctiveness is very hard to achieve in any endeavour, what with everyone lapping up the same tripe day-to-day, mouths open to the damnable media corporations and bloody loving it. Oh please Mr. Cowell, tell me more about that show you do and how you get a nice annual bonus from rigging the race for Christmas number one! Can I see another elite chef cook something I won’t ever attempt to make? Can you shovel more shows about wealthy retirees buying millions of pounds worth of second homes into my gaping face? Please?

Shouldn’t we expect better from the BBC in regards to even acknowledging that we as fans of metal exist? Is there anything on any of the other mainstream channels that is like this? No. So it’s not difficult to decipher where I am going with this: Metal is distinctive. Take that BBC!

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Secondly, I pay my license fee religiously, as do most adult metal fans (what with us all being painfully middle class) and so that last statement, ie ‘do more to serve all audiences’, leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I (mostly) love the news output and I am reliably informed that the Kids TV isn’t too bad either (alright I do watch some of it ‘cos it’s like totally trippy, man’). I love, actually love, the documentaries on whatever creature/tribe/crisis is flavor of the month (well done BBC). But are the BBC serving fans of metal?

Even non-fans, intellectuals or random channel hoppers could find something to enjoy from output dedicated to metal. Even if that response is vehement dislike, that is a valid response. Art, whatever it is, is meant to evoke some sort of emotional response, not set the cash registers off. So serve me, you bastards!

How difficult would it be to get an agreement to broadcast from a venue in London or Manchester? When a band is on tour, you get them to come in, play some songs, talk to them? That almost sounds too easy. Or perhaps have cameras at a metal festival? Wouldn’t even cost them that much money to make a large section of the public happy and acknowledged. They could even do it on the radio, like they do for other music, and for a tidy extra saving (cross off the value part off the mission statement).

Or how about showing some of the great metal documentaries that are already out there, made by tiny independents struggling to get by, wouldn’t it be good to support this area? Such Hawks, Such Hounds, Blood, Sweat and Vinyl and the Metal Evolution series would be a great fit on the Friday night music doc slots on BBC4.

So, BBC, I challenge you to do something about this. Reward our faith in public service broadcasting. Sack Will.I.Am and force Jooooooools to host a night of pornogrind. Not that this article will ever pass through the black-rimmed lenses of a BBC executive, so I’ll just be left seething in my room, cry-wanking myself to sleep while they’re all busy turning a blind eye to systemic child abuse.

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2 Comments

  1. I think your article expresses my general concern with the BBC and music, especially live music. Later…. might end up being the only televised documentation of the live music of current times. I would say that YouTube and some of the larger venues and festivals have picked up the slack with the recording of live content (In hugely polarized levels of quality), so I wonder if the on-demand streaming culture has rendered the need for a show on the BBC irrelevant?

    The radio 1 rock show…..I cant even bring myself to make a coherent comment regarding the token gesture of the radio 1 rock show!

    If by some mistake we do start to see some changes in the music coverage of the BBC, I can only hope that there will be someone who will be able to record/mix the live events, as anything I have ever seen with a moderately heavy element has been destroyed by the awful cleaned up sterilized sound.

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