Radio broadcasting has always been one of the great innovators in the media, especially when it comes to music and the introduction of new sounds to a new audience. For the past 20 years or so, BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction has been bringing us sounds and musical flavours of such an eclectic and disparate nature, that not only has it been blazing a trail and championing the cause of many a leftfield and under-exposed talent, but it has also garnered much respect for its ability to delve through the vaults and bring us many long lost gems from yesteryear.
The recent announcement in the blog About The BBC by the controller of Radio 3, Alan Davey, that Late Junction’s air time will be slashed from 270 minutes across 3 nights to just one 2-hour slot on a Friday night therefore comes as a major blow to many license payers, for whom the programme is a vital source of musical nutrition. Along with an online petition (which was eventually rejected by the Parliament), there has also been an open letter to the BBC, published in The Guardian, signed by Jarvis Cocker, Shirley Collins and Brian Eno, among many others, voicing their staunch objection to the shrinking of such an important programme.
One of the main objections is that by diminishing Late Junction’s presence, the BBC is also reneging on its commitment to distinct and diverse broadcasting, thus contradicting its own ethos. Public service broadcasting, by its very nature, serves to broadcast items that the listener wasn’t aware they wanted to hear. In other words, music that acts as an ear-opener, a mind-expander and, in many cases, a portal into a new and exciting realm of sound. In a nutshell, this is Late Junction’s raison d’etre.
In today’s digital age, the element of originality is of paramount importance to many a discerning ear. Late Junction has consistently provided that and so much more. A late-night excursion into a myriad of sounds, some avant-garde jazz, a bit of throat singing, spoken word, global rhythms in quirky time signatures and presenters with an impressive breadth of knowledge and much warmth; this has meant so much to so many for so long, that the fight to preserve it is one that should absolutely win out.
Experimental, challenging, but eminently accessible, Late Junction is, and should remain, the platform for music you never expected to fall in love with but were unable to resist. The comments section of the About The BBC blog exceeds 300, and all of them are voicing their disapproval, expressing the joy that Late Junction brings them. Among them is this soundbite, one that sums up why we need more eclectic music, rather than less. Aside from going very well with a cup of tea, Late Junction “provides a sonic breath of fresh air”.
Musical nutrition, indeed.