Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber has accused the BBC of relegating classic music to a ghetto on BBC4.
The internationally-renowned musician says that the Corporation has been “systematically downgrading” its Young Musician competition which it now shows it on BBC4, “a channel that has less than 1 per cent of the viewing public”.
“In its heyday the contest was truly The X Factor of its time. Shown live on BBC1 on a Saturday evening, the final would attract more than 12 million viewers, ensuring that the winner became a household name overnight.”
The competition, which is in its 38th year, was moved to BBC2 in 1988 and then to BBC4 in 2002 with only the final being shown on BBC2. The final is now aired on BBC4.
“You don’t have to be a cynic to wonder if the Corporation is paving the way to kill of its own creation,” Lloyd Webber wrote in an opinion piece in The Times. “If that happens, declining viewers numbers will inevitably be cited, as the BBC continues to remain absurdly in thrall to ratings despite its hefty licence fee.”
The musician, who is principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire and the brother of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, added: “Television ratings are no more a measure of success than police figures telling you how many criminals have been arrested while people feel unsafe to walk the streets.”
This Sunday sees the final of the BBC Young Musician contest.
Saxophonist Jess Gillam, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and horn player Ben Goldscheider will each perform a concerto of their choice, accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
All three have been mentored by former winner Nicola Benedetti.
The Young Musician competition is open to amateur players.
The finalists have made it through four stages to play at the Barbican on Sunday night, from regional auditions to last week’s semi-finals.
The grand final will be broadcast from 7pm on BBC 4 and BBC Radio 3 this Sunday.