BBC Radio Lancashire has discontinued a program with a long history of bringing electronic music, hip-hop and reggae from the fringes to the forefront. Steve Barker‘s On the Wire has been canceled after 36 years, and many have taken issue with the station’s handling of the matter.
According to a statement from Barker, the series’ final episode aired on March 14th – shortly before COVID-19 lockdowns prompted all BBC local stations to cut staff. This week, they announced plans to continue with their present level of programming for the foreseeable future.
“For me personally and the On the Wire team, no BBC representative has taken the trouble to formally inform us that On the Wire is not required, discuss any possible future for the program or even thanked us for running the show without break since 1984,” Barker wrote, “or even said anything at all, save for the local manager telling me by a quick phone call that I would not be getting another contract and he was really sorry.”
Fans of the program have spoken out against the decision in a Change.org petition. “It might not have an audience of 20 million or trend on twitter weekly but it’s the kind of show we pay our license fee for,” reads a passage of the description. “The kind of show that commercial radio just can’t make because it would make no sense at all. It’s precisely that lack of sense that makes it magical. It is radio in its purest form.”
Barker cut his teeth as a music journalist with Radio Blackburn, working on a show called RPM from 1978-1984. Originally titled Spinoff, On the Wire not only introduced listeners to the likes of dub reggae and techno/house but also bands like U2, Joy Division and The Smiths. According to BBC, it boasts the distinction of “longest-running continuous underground music show on U.K. radio.”
Sign the petition to save On the Wire via Change.org.
Image credit: Steve Urquhart