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Biggest Weekend: Beeb’s Big Blunder?

BBC Music has announced plans to stage a new music festival called The Biggest Weekend next year, which will take place in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales over the late May Bank Holiday weekend in 2018. Aimed at an audience of 175,000, the events will bring all of the BBC’s music stations together over four days with line ups that reflect the range of music played on Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and 6 Music, also including 1Xtra and Asian Network performances and broadcasts.

The Beeb, who obviously felt the need to jump in and plug a Glastonbury shaped gap that they feel the 1,000 or so other festivals in the UK couldn’t, are staging this as a one off.

Director of BBC Radio and BBC Music Bob Shennan said: “BBC Music has a strong history of bringing the nation together for some special moments, and this is the biggest single music event ever attempted by the BBC. We will be celebrating the diversity of music from four different corners of the country, bringing the best UK music to the world and the best global music to the UK”.

That’s all very well but there are other issues at play here- surely it would be more cost effective for the BBC, who are facing unprecedented scrutiny to cover existing events rather than staging their own? Despite some obvious major festival coverage, the BBC covers a small percentage of events across all broadcast platforms. Lets not forget that part of the corporation’s public purpose is “representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities”.

Secondly, doesn’t this amount to interference in the commercial market? By staging free or low cost shows and presumably attracting artists for reduced fees due to their broadcast reach, it is hardly a level playing field with other operators. “The diversity of music from four different corners of the country” as Shennan puts it, is already well represented- so why is this event happening other than extending the BBC’s own brands?

Speaking of diversity, the BBC is of course also under fire after revealing the names and approximate salaries of on-air talent who are paid more than £150,000 a year as part of the conditions of their new charter.

On the list, around two thirds were men, with female presenters being shown to earn less than their male counterparts for essentially doing the same work. Over 40 of the BBC’s most high profile female presenters have signed an open letter calling on the broadcaster to close its gender pay gap, which it has committed to do by 2020.

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