Sam Smith Lends Backing to Pro BBC Campaign

Joanna Dudderidge
Sam Smith at the BBC's Let It Beeb on Oct. 12, 2015.

Sam Smith joined a host of star names and industry executives at the launch of a U.K. music industry campaign in support of the BBC, this evening (Oct. 12) in London. 

The multiple Grammy winner was joined by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Sandy Shaw, Jake Bugg, composer David Arnold, BBC Radio 1 presenter Nick Grimshaw and a number of politicians, TV personalities and music business execs at the formal launch event, which took place at Portcullis House in Westminster and featured a short acoustic performance from Jake Bugg.

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They were all there to get behind #LetItBeeb – a publicly focused campaign and petition coordinated by umbrella organization UK Music, aimed at drumming up support for the BBC’s music services at a time when the broadcaster is under threat from government imposed cuts. Next year also sees the government make its ruling over the renewal of its Royal Charter, which determines the BBC’s funding levels for the next decade.   

The #LetItBeeb campaign -- which echoes an earlier high profile show of support from the arts and entertainment community, featuring Daniel Craig, JK Rowling and Dame Judi Dench -- has already been backed by some of the biggest names in the U.K. music industry, including Sir Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Brian Eno, Paloma Faith, Sting, Boy George, New Order, James Bay, Annie Lennox, Bob Geldof, Rita Ora, Paul Epworth, Disclosure and many others.    

“Music is something that we are extraordinary good at as a country and there are many good reasons for that:  huge talent, business know-how and the BBC,” said UK Music chief executive Jo Dipple at the launch. “Tonight is a chance for us, the music industry, to put on record our support,” she continued, adding: “We can’t say how much weaker music tourism or the music industry would be without the BBC, but weaker it most definitely would be.”

Her words were echoed by BBC director general Tony Hall, who called music central to what the BBC offers. “We have been making a difference to British music for well on 90 years, supporting British artists, composers, musicians, as well as studios, producers and all the other craft skills that go towards making British music something very, very special globally,” Hall stated, identifying Florence and the Machine’s Florence Welch as one of a number of current global stars “who took their first steps onto the world stage through BBC music.”

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The chief executive of U.K. labels trade body BPI, Geoff Taylor, also spoke at the event, praising the BBC as a vital part of the British music ecosystem. “We have a symbiotic relationship between a music industry that takes risks and a public service broadcaster that helps the music industry reach audiences and that’s unique to the U.K.,” Taylor told guests, citing the statistic that “75% of the music played on BBC Radio is not played on commercial stations.”  

The night’s most surprising advocate for the publicly funded broadcaster, however, was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale, who has long been regarded a strong opponent of the BBC and launched a green paper review into its future earlier this year. Beckoned onto the stage by Taylor, Whittingdale made a seemingly impromptu speech in which he called the “BBC’s contribution to music in this country absolutely essential.”

“I want the BBC to go on providing services like Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3, all of which do cater for tastes which are not served by the commercial sector. Sometimes we criticize the BBC too much for looking like commercial stations and that is not the case with BBC music,” Whittingdale continued, drawing an unlikely round of applause when he expressed a desire for the BBC to not cut, but actually increase its television coverage of music.

He concluded: “As long as I’m Secretary of State I will continue to support the BBC and highlight the incredible talent that we have in this country.”