Why at least one much loved 6music presenter was inevitably going to leave the station (and why there was a reasonably good chance it would be Shaun Keaveny)

Published on 10 September 2021 in , , , , ,

Today I listened to Shaun Keaveny’s final show on 6music. It was a sad moment. I’ve loved listening to him ever since, many years ago, I finally abandoned the Today programme and replaced it with Shaun’s 6music breakfast show. I don’t believe in regrets. I don’t see the point. But if there is one thing I do regret its listening to news programming at breakfast for so long. It mostly made me annoyed and angry. Whereas Shaun made me happy.

When Shaun’s departure was announced back in June, the reasons were relatively vague. When it was announced, the press release had a lot of love and praise for the man, but reasons for departure was little more than

“Things change, places change, people change, and it’s time for a change”

Had someone poached him? Did he decide it was time to do something new? Who knew. Although there was a clue in his final link where, in an emotional farewell, he uttered the words “when I found out I wasn’t going to be doing this show any more.”

Given he’d been very guarded on reasons for leaving, it was perhaps a bit of an slip of the tongue. But it seemed pretty clear he hadn’t wanted to go. That this wasn’t his idea.

But it reminded me of something I tweeted back in June, after the announcement:

Given 6music has made a commitment to move a substantial amount of output out of London, was very likely that at least one much loved presenter was going to leave in the next few years…

And the reason I said that all comes back to something that happened in March. BBC Director General Tim Davie announced a raft of changes as part of a blueprint called ‘The BBC Across the UK‘. It was a plan to shift the BBC’s creative and journalistic centre away from London. A lot of changes were announced, most of which got more attention that the small line that says “Radio 3 and 6 Music will be rooted in Salford.” In the 13 page blueprint document itself, it was even more specific. “We will move the majority of 6 Music over time to Salford where it already has talent and production.”

I don’t know currently what proportion of 6music’s output comes from Salford. My guess is roughly a third. But looking at the schedule, and looking at the commitment made, it was obvious something was going to give. Prior to Keaveny leaving today, the 6music weekday schedule looked like this:

TimeslotShowPresented from
05:00 – 07:30Chris HawkinsSalford
07:30 – 10:30 Lauren LaverneLondon
10:30 – 13:00Mary-Anne HobbsLondon
13:00 – 16:00Shaun KeavenyLondon
16:00 – 19:00Steve LamacqLondon
19:00 – 21:00Marc Riley (Mon-Thu)
Iggy Pop
Salford
Somewhere in Florida
21:00 – 0:00Gideon Coe (Mon-Thu)
Tom Ravenscroft
London
London

For simplicity I’ve left off the overnight schedule which is a mixture of pre-recorded and archive shows.

But here we can instantly see the challenge. Not much comes from Salford on a weekday. Something was inevitably going to have to give. And that would mean either some presenters moving their shows to Salford, or some presenters leaving and being replaced by people based in Salford. Notably the afternoon show from Monday will be presented from Salford, initially by Chris Hawkins before Craig Charles takes over the slot on a permanent basis.

Obviously some people were going to be safe. Chris Hawkins and Marc Riley would be absolutely fine. And Mary-Anne Hobbs probably is too. Prior to the pandemic this show was presented from Salford, and if you listen to the show you’ll spot references to her producer (Helen) being in Salford. One has to presume at some point Mary-Anne herself will be back in MediaCity. And Iggy Pop’s probably pretty safe too.

So that left Laverne, Keaveny, Lamacq, Gideon Coe and Tom Ravenscroft. And if you’re trying to make your station less focused on London, my suggestion to you is that realistically at least one of those daytime shows was going to have to move. No one said every show needed to remove – just that the majority of the output would come from Salford. Flip one more show from London to Salford and the job would probably be done.

And then it comes down again to either the presenter moves, or the presenter leaves.

Relocating to another part of the country is hard. I know. I’ve been through this. I’ve been through this at the BBC. And I know it’s complicated. And it’s more complicated if you have a partner and children. As soon as at least one of your children’s at high school – and both Lauren Laverne and Shaun Keaveny have high school aged children – I’d say forget it.

And so there we are. It was all inevitable. When you look at it cold and hard like that, some much loved daytime presenter of 6music was going to have to go.

But who?

Presenter of the station’s breakfast show, and all round superstar, Lauren Laverne? New music legend Steve Lamacq who – certainly at one point – had the highest rated show on the network? I’m sure many will disagree with me, but essentially both are just pure 6music. They live and breathe new music, as well as being engaging and entertaining. And they both present flagship shows in the schedule, as well as having their own new music shows as part of the New Music Fix strand.

Which is why – if my theory is correct – it was always most likely Shaun Keaveny was going to be the one going. He is an amazing and popular broadcaster, but he didn’t have the flagship timeslot (any more) nor did he quite have the link to the music of the other two candidates.

Of course you could in all this argue that he didn’t need to go. That his production team could have been in Salford whilst he broadcast from London. Although there’s an argument that would just be a fudge; rather half hearted, and certainly not in keeping with the idea of moving the BBC’s focal point out of London.

But even if Shaun’s departure has absolutely nothing to do with all this, one thing remains true. Something was going to have to change. Like it or not, as soon as the BBC committed for 6music to be ‘rooted’ in Salford, at least one much loved presenter was going to depart. The question was never “if” but always “who”.

Shaun, I am absolutely sure, will crop up somewhere. He’s already done some fill-in slots on Radio 2 and it really wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t turn up there a lot more. Equally I’d be amazed if at least one of Absolute, Radio X, and Virgin Radio weren’t wondering how they could potentially slot him into their schedule somewhere. Shaun Keaveny is an incredibly talented broadcaster, and would probably fit in well with any of those brands. That is, assuming he wants to do a regular radio show of some kind. But I’d be surprised if he doesn’t. And I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t pop up somewhere soon.

Before I finish off, I want to mention one very important thing. This piece focuses on Shaun Keaveny and other on-air staff at 6music. But the changes announced by the BBC in March will affect many more people than Shaun. There will be a plethora of people behind the scenes trying to work out whether to move with their jobs out of London, or leave and find a new role somewhere. Like I said earlier, I know all about this. It’s just over ten years ago that I left the BBC after my job moved to Salford. There’s an irony that I later moved to Greater Manchester and returned to the BBC. But at the time, the decision to stay in London was the right one for me. But it was incredibly hard to make that decision. And very daunting to actually make that step. The move the BBC’s making is undoubtedly one that is for the greater good. But you can’t make a change like that without impacting peoples lives. And for those affected, it’s not necessarily easy.

The author feels he should note that he does currently work for the BBC, and is writing in a personal capacity. He has absolutely no knowledge or insight on the ins and outs of what’s going on at 6music, and much of what is written above is conjecture based on facts (referenced), logic and reasonable deduction. The author feels the deductions are fair. But the author could be wrong on what happened.