These are four of the six BBC Performing Groups that make the BBC unique among UK broadcasters. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales were not threatened with cuts in the BBC’s announcement last Tuesday. The petition to save BBC Singers started by Jack Apperley has over 120,000 signatures as of today. Along with the outpouring of support in the union’s inboxes, on social media, in columns, letters and in Parliament, it is a clear demonstration that the BBC Singers and orchestras are hugely valued by BBC licence fee payers.
The MU in Action
As the trade union for musicians in the UK, the MU represents and collectively bargains for the musicians affected. MU Officials have received so many messages from musicians in solidarity with union members over the past week that it’s quite overwhelming. We have received messages of solidarity from freelance musicians as well as members of other orchestras, and international support from the International Federation of Musicians.
The industry reaction demonstrates that the BBC Singers and orchestras are a vital part of the UK music ecosystem. For the MU, this isn’t just about saving jobs, although we do want to save the jobs, it is about the future of UK music.
A core part of the BBC’s public service remit
The BBC’s own Myerscough Review in 2012 included the following statement from Tim Davie, now Chief Executive of the BBC: “The groups are a core part of the BBC's public service remit and that each one plays a unique role in British cultural life, delivering high-quality performances of distinctive repertoire and supporting education and outreach projects.”
The review goes on: “The PGs apply their energies to developing musical life not only through their concerts but also in professional activity with young artists, composers and conductors, as well as with players and singers. The BBC Singers are very active in this sphere. They provide an important element of continuity in the provision of professional experience in choral practice, working with music conservatoires, university departments and professional choral bodies. In different forms, the BBC orchestras also all engage with the music conservatoires and other professional associations in the vital work of maintaining the tradition and building for the future.”
“Given the demanding number of programmes they need to prepare, the distinctive model of the BBC PGs is an efficient way of working. The BBC orchestras are able to deliver more than twice the repertory of the independent orchestras and are remarkably skilled at preparing difficult material to the highest standard useful for broadcast. Additionally, the degree of specialisation amongst each of the six PGs and their differentiation in repertoire gives a scale benefit, which makes the overall achievement possible,” it continues.
The report concluded: “The report examined both closures of the PGs and equal cost reductions across the groups as a means of decreasing investment. It found that either way a severe diminution would result in the quality, range and volume of live and specially recorded music available to the BBC. This would be inconsistent with the Corporation’s editorial needs and delivery to audiences.”
The Union is behind every member of the BBC Performing Groups and we will keep members informed as the situation develops.