Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

11.  Memorandum submitted by the BBC


  This is the BBC's submission to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into young black people and the criminal justice system.


  The Committee are conducting an inquiry into young black people and the criminal justice system—investigating the causes of young black people's overrepresentation in the criminal justice system and solutions to it. As part of this they are looking into what may lie behind the apparent overrepresentation of young black males in violent crimes, robbery and firearms offences—both as victims and perpetrators. The remit of the next session is to discuss the extent and nature of links between music and criminal behaviour, and the extent to which this is, or should be taken into account when making content decisions.


    —  Sets out the public service remit for BBC Radio 1 and its sister station 1Xtra with regard to the range of programming and music output.

    —  Provides quantitative evidence regarding the broadcasting of rap and other black music genres on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra.

    —  Outlines the BBC's editorial guidelines and standards with regard to programme output.

    —  Gives relevant details of the public service content and outreach activities of BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra.



  This document aims to give background information on the public purpose and editorial processes of BBC Radio 1 and the BBC digital radio station 1Xtra, especially as they relate to contemporary rap music. It includes statistical evidence on the amount of rap music played, audience profile information and details of the public service value and outreach work of both networks. A brief summary of the history and context of rap music is included as an appendix.

1.  Radio 1's public service remit and programming

  The UK has a rich and successful contemporary music culture. For nearly 40 years, the station has played an important role in aiding the strength and innovation of popular music in this country. It aims to offer an exciting, high-quality service for young audiences. It is committed to playing the best new music and delivering a comprehensive range of live studio sessions, concerts and festival broadcasts. The network aims to cover all the significant youth music genres with a wide-ranging playlist and a diverse team of specialist DJs. It also delivers tailored speech output including news, documentaries and advice campaigns with integrated online and interactive services.

  Extract from BBC Annual Report 2006:

    "Radio 1 plays a key role in enabling the BBC to reach young audiences and the success of the station is critical to the success of BBC Radio as a whole. We are pleased that the new strategy we approved for Radio 1 in 2003 continues to bear fruit. The station has reversed the annual declines in audiences recorded between 2000 and 2003."

  The network has assembled an unmatched line-up of specialist music programmes, unique in popular music radio. They reflect the best new music across a wide range of genres and encourage new talent through sessions and live performance. Radio 1's specialist programmes are presented by DJs who are acknowledged as authentic experts. They are scheduled in the evenings and late at night, and attract audiences who are knowledgeable about specific genres.

  Radio 1 has 27 different specialist music shows, accounting for 74 hours of programming each week. Tim Westwood's Saturday night show is dedicated solely to rap and hip-hop; Ras Kwame features UK artists from rap and similar genres; while another three shows feature rap on a regular basis ("Tim Westwood's In New Music We Trust"; "The 1Xtra Take Over with Ace & Vis" and the monthly "In New DJs We Trust" show with Professor Green.)

  In total, rap accounts for around 12% of all specialist music on Radio 1 in an average week.

  Analysis of daytime programming in 2006 for this document found rap accounted for around 9% of the music played. This compares to 11% r'n'b, 20% dance and 33% rock. It should be stressed however that the rap tracks featured in daytime tend to be more pop-influenced.

2.  Radio 1's Audience Profile[111]

    —  Each week, Radio 1 is listened to by more than 10 million people in the UK.

    —  3.5 million listeners are in the 15-24 age range, meaning 44% of the UK's young adults listen to Radio 1 in an average week.

    —  There are 1.6 million black people in the UK (2% of the population)—245,000 (15%) listen to Radio 1 each week.

    —  Radio 1 attracts 96,000 black people aged 15-24. The majority are outside London and the large urban centres, which is counter to distribution of the UK black population, but probably reflects the fact that available radio competition for this audience is higher in London and other cities.

    —  Radio 1's rap programmes reach 976,000 listeners, nearly half of whom are women. 88% of listeners are white, 6% are black.

    —  Overall Radio 1 is listened to by 22.6% of young black men each week—with 7.5% (13,000) hearing some of the networks' specialist rap programming.

3.  1Xtra's public service remit and programming

  In the late 1990's, the BBC recognised a pressing audience issue—the lack of connection with young fans of black music, especially those from ethnic minorities. Black music genres—rap, r'n'b, garage, reggae etc—had become increasingly popular in the UK and around the world, appealing both to specialist niche audiences and to the mainstream. Radio 1, as described above, has a remit to cover the full range of contemporary music genres and therefore could not offer sufficient focus for these audiences. In addition there were relatively few commercial services addressing this audience, apart from pirate stations—which had poor editorial and technical standards. In 2002, 1Xtra was launched as a digital service, on DAB radio, TV and online—with a brief to play the best new music from all the relevant genres, and a specific commitment to support UK black music. It also had a target that 10% of programming would be news, documentaries and social action output. It has achieved its stated launch aims—attracting an audience that is younger than any other BBC radio service and far more likely to be black or Asian. It has also achieved some significant success in supporting young British artists—most notably Mercury Award winner Dizzee Rascal and the young rapper Sway, who won Best Hip-Hop Act at the 2005 MOBO awards.

  Extract from BBC Annual Report 2006:

    "1Xtra has continued to build its confidence, ambition and reputation—and to reach audiences the BBC has traditionally found it very hard to attract ... 1Xtra's audiences are rising: in 2005-06, average 15-minute weekly reach to adults aged 15+ was 0.36 million people or 0.7% (0.31 million/0.6% in 2004-05)"

  1Xtra has 30 different specialist shows, accounting for 79 hours of programming a week. Five shows are dedicated to rap, a total of 14 hours (18%).

  Analysis of daytime programming found 36% of music on average was hip-hop (27% US and 9% UK). This compares to 33% r'n'b and 9% dancehall, with the station also broadcasting significant amounts of other black music genres, including drum and bass and garage.

4.  1Xtra's Audience Profile[112]

    —  1Xtra reaches 430,000 people each week—220,000 (51%) of them are aged 15-24.

    —  68% of the audience are white, 20% black and 12% Asian.

    —  1Xtra's rap output reaches 126,000 listeners—a third of them women.

    —  Overall 1Xtra is listened to by 17.6% of young black men each week—with just over 8% (14,000) hearing some of the networks specialist rap programming.

5.  The BBC's editorial process

  As with all BBC content, Radio 1 and 1Xtra programmes are subject to the BBC's published Editorial Guidelines.

  Under the section on "harm and offence", the guidelines address several issues relevant to rap and other specialist music:

    "The BBC aims to reflect the world as it is, including all aspects of the human experience and the realities of the natural world. In doing so, we balance our right to broadcast and publish innovative and challenging content appropriate to each of our services with our responsibility to protect the vulnerable ...

    We signpost and label challenging material to ensure our audiences have enough information on which to judge whether content is suitable for themselves or their children ...

    We should judge the suitability of content for our audiences, including children, in relation to the expectations of the likely audience at a particular time on a particular day, and in relation to the nature of the services as well as the nature of the content.

—  What is the likely composition of the audience, including the likely number and age range of children in the audience, taking into account school time, weekends and holidays?

—  Does the talent, slot, genre or service carry pre-existing expectations which may be challenged by the content?

    We should normally play edited versions (`broadcast versions') of music which would otherwise feature unsuitable material, including offensive language or violent content, for mainstream daytime audiences. At night and in specialist music programmes, the original `adult' version may be editorially justified."

  All programming on Radio 1 and 1Xtra is compiled and produced to these criteria. On daytime shows aimed at a more mainstream audience, all tracks are checked before selection for strong language and potentially offensive content. If necessary, edits are made. Late at night, on specialist shows aimed at an audience who understand the context and style of the genre, stronger content may be acceptable.

  Any proposed playing of tracks with the most offensive language is referred by the production teams to a senior editorial figure at the network, and approval, if given, is in writing. Clear audience warnings are inserted in specialist shows about any strong language or content.

  Extensive audience research carried out before the launch of 1Xtra showed that these procedures and polices are broadly approved of by listeners. Most understood the need to protect younger listeners from offensive language or content, and accepted that material would be "censored" at times when they were more likely to be listening. However, the overwhelming view was that such material, if editorially valid and of suitable quality, could be played late at night to fans of the genre. Although no formal watershed exists in radio, the concept of the television watershed was understood by the audience and similar principles were thought appropriate for music radio services.

  Research carried out for the BBC's Programme Strategy Review echoed these findings. It concluded:

  The Young:

    —  almost never complain about content on TV or Radio;

    —  are unlikely to be shocked by sex or violence; and

    —  have strong feelings of self-responsibility. They don't want anybody else to protect them.

  The BBC:

    —  needs to talk to them straight;

    —  to be an engaged participant rather than a distant expert; and

    —  must uphold values of frankness, honesty and authenticity.

  There have been no upheld complaints, either by OFCOM or the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, against rap programming on Radio 1 or 1Xtra.

6.  Public service content and outreach activities of Radio 1 and 1Xtra

  Young people face some unique challenges as they grow up, and over many years Radio 1 and 1Xtra have developed and delivered a range of Social Action campaigns and content that give credible information, and tackle relevant audience issues, eg drugs, relationships, sexual health or exam choices.

  Although the overwhelming majority of the audiences to Radio 1 and 1Xtra are unlikely to be involved in the criminal justice system, crime and/or the fear of crime is a significant issue for them. Radio 1 and 1Xtra have for many years recognised a responsibility to provide information in this area, such as documentaries and tailored news output that stimulates engagement with the issues. They also regularly support initiatives, or music, which can lead to positive involvement in music and positive social messages.

  In the last year 1Xtra in particular supported major campaigns from the Metropolitan Police (Operation Trident) and the Government funded Rhyme4Respect. On editorial merit the soundtrack to Operation Trident's "Stop The Guns" campaign, Roll Deep's "Bad Man", received high rotation on 1Xtra, with its accompanying, hard-hitting video featured on the station's website. The track offers a powerful warning to those who may be seduced by the perceived benefits of crime and violence. Rhyme4Respect was a nationwide lyric competition which offered young writers, rappers and street poets a chance to demonstrate their lyrical skills and encouraged them to think and talk about issues in a positive and credible way.

  During 2006's knife amnesty a Radio 1 documentary tackled the issue in a programme called "Knives Out", which examined, among other aspects, the ease of buying potentially deadly weapons. 1Xtra's "Young, Armed and Terrified" heard from many teenagers who have been affected by crime. Listeners to both stations were able to hear from French rappers in Paris following the civil unrest and rioting there, reflecting on the social environment that many say led to the outbreak of violence in France. 1Xtra's "Hip Hop in the Holy Land" heard from Jewish and Arab rappers who use their music and lyrics to express their perspective on the situation.

  The news output of both networks aims to encourage young audiences to engage in issues and debate, often literally through text or website interaction. In the run up to the 2005 General Election, for example, 1Xtra ran an online competition for budding MCs to create rhymes on topics such as education, crime and immigration. The best were featured on air and a winner voted for by the audience. Radio 1 put relevant questions from its young audience to the party leaders.

  Social action campaigns aim to give impartial and relevant information that encourages positive behaviour. For example, the UK leads all Europe in unwanted pregnancies and in sexually transmitted diseases, so Radio 1 and 1Xtra teamed up with other media organisations in 2006 to undertake the "Bare All Sex Survey"—the biggest ever survey on young people and sex. This led to a series of programmes that included discussions on why some young people reject condoms, advice on what to do if pressurised to have sex and debate on other aspects of sexual health. 1Xtra also took part in the pan-BBC "Read All About It" campaign in April 2006, visiting Stoke Heath Young Offenders Institution in Shropshire to look at how some inmates had been turning their lives around through education.

  The work Radio 1 and 1Xtra undertakes in the community, as well as both stations' live events programmes, makes an additional positive contribution. 1Xtra has a commitment to stage at least 50 live events a year around the UK and, like Radio 1, often focuses on areas underserved by musical events. A good example of how high quality music events can transcend divisive social issues is Radio 1's Big Weekend in Derry in 2004 which demonstrated the many benefits to the community, with 10,000 young people from both Catholic and Protestant communities celebrating two days of live music in an atmosphere of extraordinary peaceful excitement. The Deputy Mayor of Derry claimed:

    "It gives them (the young people) a positive attitude to come together and just get loving together".

  1Xtra played a similar role in Hackney (NE London) last year with the Urban Classics initiative, creating another unique event, that brought together some of the biggest names in UK black music with the BBC Concert Orchestra. It was a ground-breaking live concert combining grime, hip-hop and classical music, demonstrating how music can build cultural understanding and cross almost any divide.

  1Xtra has worked extensively in the community on various projects since its launch—activities have included schools tours, work experience programmes and question and answer sessions. The station arranged for Bob Marley's son Damian to speak to 100 college students from underprivileged areas in the Midlands last year. Amongst his themes were the importance of education, positivity and responsibility. Individual presenters also undertake work in the community on their own accord—Radio 1's Tim Westwood for example has been a patron of the radio station at Feltham Young Offenders Institution for many years.

  Music is core to the Radio 1 and 1Xtra offer and music is very important to all young audiences, including those from ethnic minorities for whom genres such as hip hop or grime are a passion. Music is also one of the key currencies of the new digital universe, with new technologies beginning to displace the more traditional ways of accessing it. Commercial television and radio, pirate stations and the BBC's services remain very important, but fast internet connections and MP3 file sharing now means that distribution of music is, to an extent, far more in the hands of the audience. This is why both Radio 1 and 1Xtra have put such an emphasis on its digital provision in recent years. Music making itself has benefited from the digital revolution, expensive studio time has given way to bedroom software, UK hip hop and grime artists have made much use of this in creating their music and social networking sites such as MySpace are a simple launch pad for new material—this new and fast advancing world throws into sharp relief any notion of "top down" control of music making, distribution and listening.

  Music is being made in home studios and in the UK a high proportion of the black music genres (hip-hop and grime) emerge from particular areas of the country, by and large deprived inner city areas (particularly London). The music and lyrics reflect life from that perspective and often depict harsh realities; family breakdown, drug use, violence or the contrast between wealth and poverty, as well as the universal themes such as boy/girl relationships. With the support of 1Xtra and Radio 1 high quality artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Ty, Sway or Wiley can break out of these underground music scenes and be successful with mainstream young audiences. The artists' life perspective is understood and the music enjoyed by wider audiences. The production sounds and styles of so called "street music" influence pop music in general, as street fashions influence the department store. Many who have worked with 1Xtra and Radio 1 such as DJs, live events promoters or youth workers believe passionately that music-making is a powerful and positive opportunity for young people, giving a focus for creativity and possibilities for a career. Furthermore music also gives a powerful platform for many young artists who want to highlight the futility of a life of crime, violence or drug use. There are dozens of "conscious" records made which have been very successful with the audience: including Blak Twang's "GCSE", where GCSE was treated as "Ghetto Children Sex Education", dealing with safe sex; Tor's "Striving", a track from a female MC tackling homelessness and unemployment; Skinnyman's "Council Estate Of Mind", which included commentary on prostitution and joyriding; and So Solid Crew's "Broken Silence", which featured the line: "we're trying to demote the violence, not promote the violence".

  There are, on the other hand, tracks that contain material that requires careful consideration, 1Xtra decided against daytime play for two of the biggest grime tracks of 2006: Wiley's "Gangsterz", a track describing his relationship with the many different gangs in his area of London and Jammer's "Murkle Man", which was a hit in underground clubs, but featured aggressive and violent lyrics.

  As described earlier in this document the BBC's Editorial Guidelines, under which Radio 1 and 1Xtra operate, ensure programmes act responsibly on a case-by-case basis when considering which tracks to feature, and this means a careful balance between tracks that might be appropriate within specialist programmes and the risk of offence to more casual daytime listeners.

  The overall challenge in connecting with young audiences is to make the programmes authentic and non-patronising, whilst exercising careful editorial judgements.

January 2007

111   All figures are latest available RAJAR figures for listening amongst adults, 15+, July-September 2006. Back

112   All figures are latest available RAJAR figures for listening amongst adults, 15+, July-September, 2006. Back

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