The BBC has turned its Young Musician competition from the classic equivalent of The X Factor into a side show, according to Julian Lloyd Webber, who said most viewers are unaware it still exists.
The competition, once shown on the BBC’s flagship channel where it drew millions of viewers, has been relegated to BBC Four – a channel “destined for scrap”, Lloyd Webber said.
The cellist and founder of In Harmony, a government-run music education program for children, said removing classical music from prime-time television would have a disastrous effect.
“I’ve always believed that access to music should be a birthright for every young person, not just those whose parents can afford expensive instruments and school fees.
“Yet not only is it entirely likely that children will have little or no opportunity to make music at school, it is also highly unlikely that a child will accidentally stumble upon a music performance. classical music on television. It’s a tragedy,” writes Lloyd Webber in this week’s Radio Times.
“Did you know that the BBC Young Musician 2022 final took place on October 9 and was won by an 18-year-old percussionist from Cambridgeshire named Jordan Ashman? Or, as was the case with almost everyone, did you miss it? »
‘Blink and you’ll miss it’
When the competition first aired in 1978 – as Young Musician of the Year – it attracted an estimated 13 million viewers on BBC One, Lloyd Webber said.
“Now blink and you will miss it. This year’s final was shown on BBC Four – a channel for scrap – and attracted an average audience of 210,000. No prizes for guessing what will happen soon.
“Why did the BBC do this to its own competition?”
The competition moved from BBC One to BBC Two in the mid-1980s, but in 2014 it switched to BBC Four, which is now an archive channel, apart from occasional forays into live performances.
Lloyd Webber said classical music had brought people solace during the lockdown but “has been completely sidelined from mainstream TV, just when it’s needed more than ever”.
A BBC spokesperson said: “BBC Young Musician is an important and much-loved brand and we are fully committed to its future. BBC Four is home to the best performances from across the UK every week and Young Musician has been on the channel since 2014.”