Celebs call for BBC niche stations to stay open

Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson among those in group

LONDON – Some 47 actors and musicians including Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Meera Syal and Pop Levi have called on BBC director general Mark Thompson to abandon the planned closure of BBC niche radio stations BBC6 and the Asian Network.

The closures – which are currently being approved by the BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust – are part of a cost-cutting program being implemented in a bid to rein in spending.
But the pubcaster is coming under increasingly public pressure to reconsider the move, and has been accused of bowing to pressure from commercial rivals.

"Losing services like indie-music digital station 6 Music and the Asian Network, which have brought thousands of new listeners to the BBC, would be a huge mistake," the group said in a letter to the Guardian newspaper.

"The BBC has many enemies. Media moguls who made billions from undercutting public service broadcasting would love to see it crumble. But it's vital that we don't let that happen."

Other signatories to the letter include Bianca Jagger, musicians Frank McColl and Jaga Jazzist, and record label heads Martin Mills of Beggars Group and Natalie Judge of Matador Records.

Last year BSkyB chairman and News Corp. Europe and Asia boss James Murdoch accused the pubcaster of being "chilling" in its scale.

The letter comes on the final day of the BBC Trust's public consultation on the cuts planned as part of the BBC director general Mark Thompson's strategy review, which also includes plans to scale back the BBC's online operations.

The decision must now be approved by BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons, with a verdict expected later this summer.