While the biz was focusing on Nick Grimshaw’s departure from Radio 1’s flagship Breakfast Show, fellow BBC network Radio 6 Music was quietly making a potentially more significant announcement.
The arrival of Lauren Laverne as the station’s first female breakfast show host – and, alongside 1Xtra’s Dotty, one of the few solo female presenters in that timeslot – will certainly offer a welcome alternative in the still-surprisingly-blokey world of early morning radio.
Shaun Keaveny has done a sterling job over the past 11 - 11! - years and has earned his move to afternoon, while some of the other schedule changes at 6 will no doubt take some time to bed in with listeners that have had remarkably little change to deal with in recent years. Big changes elsewhere in the radio landscape should give them the chance to do just that. But, from a pure industry perspective, Laverne's move also puts a renowned tastemaker in a slot that tends to be dominated by personalities, rather than music champions.
Laverne is a big personality herself, but she also knows what it’s like to be an artist, from her days in post-Britpop punkas Kenickie. She knows her way around the music business, as anyone who has seen her hosting the Music Week Awards for the past two years will know. And she has a tendency to pop up anywhere – the Mercury Prize, Glastonbury – that’s associated with great music.
Laverne’s statement about her appointment notably concentrated on the show’s music content and, while she might not get away with all of her eclectic mid-morning choices at the crack of dawn, she’ll surely still be looking way beyond the playlist, while she has the profile and impact to really champion new artists and releases.
And, as 6 Music plots to build on its 2.5 million listeners – a number that, by the way, would have been considered the stuff of a madman’s dreams during your correspondent’s days on the station – its new, high-profile breakfast show host could be the key.
BBC 6 Music one of the few parts of the shrinking alternative world that is still growing. The dominance of streaming has hit indie music, particularly guitar music, hard when it comes to generating hit singles and has meant it's no longer at the heart of popular culture. The sector, and 6 for that matter, could use a proper hitmaking platform to go with the industry-wide goodwill. This could be it.