Friends of Radio 3


The Aims

Radio 3's service licence states: “The remit of Radio 3 is to offer a mix of music and cultural programming in order to engage and entertain its audience.

“Around its core proposition of classical music, its speech-based programming should inform and educate the audience about music and culture. Jazz, world music, drama, the arts and ideas and religious programming should feature in its output always.

“The service should appeal to listeners of any age seeking to expand their cultural horizons through engagement with the world of music and the arts.”

Friends of Radio 3 celebrates BBC Radio 3 as, first and foremost, a broadcaster of Western classical music and the spoken arts, offering coverage of a wide range of musical and cultural content, including jazz and global traditional musics, and drawing on the expertise of informed contributors. We applaud Radio 3's commitment to live music, to commissioning and broadcasting new music and new drama, and to nurturing new performing talent.
  1. We will engage with the BBC and question the policies which we consider jeopardise Radio 3's obligation to deliver a high quality service of classical music, spoken arts and a range of intelligent cultural coverage; we will convey listener concerns to BBC management.
  2. We will press Radio 3 to be distinctive, and to maintain high artistic and intellectual standards; to recognise that the content will by its nature attract small audiences; and to acknowledge the necessity to build an audience for the content rather than alter the content to expand the audience.

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

Is FoR3 purely a classical music group?
No. Most, if not all, individual FoR3 supporters are classical music enthusiasts and Radio 3's remit states that classical music and its related speech programmes constitute the station's 'core proposition'; however the group supports a range of music and speech programmes
What is the range of programmes that FoR3 supports?
It corresponds in broad content with the scope of the old Third Programme, including the spoken arts (drama and poetry), features, and discussion about the arts, ideas and cultural issues, as well as music.
Does the music include jazz?
Yes. Jazz has had a regular slot on Radio 3 for forty-five years; over the decades the amount of jazz has increased from the original thirty-minute weekly programme to the current 5-6 hours per week. We find that jazz enthusiasts have much in common with classical music lovers and we support the presence of serious jazz programmes on Radio 3. We believe popular jazz coverage should continue on Radio 2 with Radio 3 supporting classic jazz, contemporary and experimental forms and in-depth discussion with specialist presenters.
What about world music?
We take the view that global traditional musics (folk and classical) should feature on Radio 3 and that currently there could be more in-depth, specialist programming. We would welcome more expert coverage of these areas. However, in our view the current world music output is balanced in favour of commercially available new releases of the contemporary styles promoted by the music industry. We think this should be reduced in favour of traditional musics and critical content.
What about other musical styles - music theatre, film music and cabaret - which have had regular slots on Radio 3 in the past?
Our principle is that the manner of presentation is a more important consideration than the musical genre. A Radio 3 programme about hiphop should differ from a Radio 1 programme. Radio 3 should feature specialist programmes with critical content rather than easy listening sequences. Any programme consisting of music which falls outside Radio 3's remit and is presented in a way that would command a larger audience on another station should probably be on that station rather than on Radio 3; but there are always grey areas on which it is pointless to legislate.
But you would like to see the amount of classical music on Radio 3 increased at the expense of other musical genres?
When FoR3 was launched in 2003, by our calculation the amount of time devoted to non-classical music in regular weekly slots had tripled in just two or three years. We raised our concerns at that time because there was no indication as to whether this would continue at the same rate of increase. In the event there has been a decrease since then. Although there is still twice the amount of regular non-classical music compared with 1998, we feel that balance is acceptable.
Are you campaigning for any type of programme to get more coverage or less coverage, or for any programmes to be dropped?
We do not campaign for individual programmes to be dropped; we do campaign for a balance to be maintained which reflects Radio 3 priorities. Over the last few decades the amount of speech/spoken arts programming has been reduced and we would welcome a reversal of this. As already mentioned we feel global traditional musics should be treated more seriously and systematically.
Where do you stand on the 'elitist'/'anti-elitist' argument?
If we were to use the terms - and we try to avoid them - we would not interpret them as 'elitist-bad, anti-elitist-good'. We see 'elitism' as appealing to those who want to deepen their understanding, and this applies no matter what knowledge level they are starting from. Minority pursuits are not, by definition, inclusive but should be available to all who want to opt in. 'Anti-elitism' involves well-intentioned but unnecessary simplification; it underestimates the intelligence of the general public in reducing the need for intellectual engagement.

It is the role of Radio 3 to enable listeners to pursue their interests ambitiously. In the last ten years two major surveys have shown that more than half those questioned believed that the BBC had 'dumbed down'. That should indicate that intellectual targets have been set too low.