Culture secretary John Whittingdale has piled pressure on the BBC to create another flagship music show like Top of the Pops.
The Tory cabinet minister was speaking at the parliamentary launch of the Let It Beeb campaign, which aims to protect BBC Music – the part of the organisation that deals with its musical output – from budget cuts ahead of next year's charter renewal. An e-petition has so far received more than 5,000 signatures.
Whittingdale was not meant to speak at the event on Monday night but took to the stage after hearing pleas from BBC director-general Tony Hall and Jo Dipple, the chief of industry group UK Music, to leave music on the BBC alone.
He insisted the BBC's contribution to music was "absolutely essential", declaring: "In some ways, actually my criticism of the BBC is that they don't do enough for music. Radio is very well-served but TV, I'd actually like to see a bit more music..."
His unexpected comments were drowned out by applause. Whittingdale went on: "All I will say to you is as long as I am secretary of state I will continue to support the BBC in highlighting the incredible talent we have in this country. And I haven't seen the petition but I think I would be very willing to sign it."
Later he told BuzzFeed News he had been a big fan of Top of the Pops – which was broadcast weekly between 1964 and 2006 – and wanted to see more big music shows back on television. He also said he used to enjoy The Old Grey Whistle Test, a late-night music show that aired between 1971 and 1988.
Musician Jake Bugg performed live at the event, which took place in Portcullis House on Monday night with guests including singers Sam Smith and Sandie Shaw and Pink Floyd's Nick Mason. TV stars Nick Grimshaw, Patrick Kielty, and Anneka Rice also showed their support alongside MPs and ministers.
In a passionate speech at the event, Dipple said: "During this [BBC] charter renewal period, when questions are rightly asked by many of you in the room, tonight is a chance for us in the music industry to put on record our support.
"Yes, the management of the BBC might be made more efficient, and that's not for me to argue here, but wider efficiencies must not impact on BBC Music services – it's just not worth the risk."
She said there was "no commercial alternative to BBC Music", adding: "So if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at email@example.com.
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