LONDON (Reuters) - Music stars David Bowie and Mark Ronson have reacted angrily to the BBC's decision to close its 6 Music station, seen as a key platform for alternative and lesser-known rock and pop acts.
BBC Radio 6 describes itself as a station that "brings together the cutting edge of today and the iconic and groundbreaking music of the past 40 years," and has a weekly audience of about 700,000 listeners. It was one of the first BBC digital stations and went on air in 2002.
The decision to shutter the station is part of a strategy to redirect about 600 million pounds ($890 million) into higher quality content such as its journalism, UK drama and comedy.
Commercial rivals such as ITV and Channel 4 could then be left to bid for sports or U.S. drama.
When details of the plans to take 6 Music off the air first surfaced last week, Bowie issued a statement on his website.
"6 Music keeps the spirit of broadcasters like John Peel alive and for new artists to lose this station would be a great shame," he said.
Peel was a pioneering radio DJ from the 1960s until his death in 2004 and championed music that would struggle to be heard on more commercial channels.
Producer Ronson said 6 Music served "more of a trainspottery love for music than you get on the main radio stations.
"It's great old music, it's great new bands. It's people like Steve Lamacq, whoever it is. People on that station love music," he told the government-backed public broadcaster.
Electropop act La Roux added: "If you get rid of 6 Music, I lose all faith in the radio industry. Please, please, please don't get rid of it. It's the only radio station I can listen to without turning it off every five minutes. Please."
Fans joined the debate, with one entry on Twitter saying: "Shutting down 6 Music is like putting your wedding ring in an envelope addressed to Cash my Gold."
The Glastonbury music festival, one of the world's largest, urged music lovers to write to the BBC Trust in a bid to save the station, while Facebook features a "Save BBC 6 Music" page which already boasts nearly 90,000 members.
Music industry leaders wrote to BBC director general Mark Thompson recently to voice their concerns, arguing that the station helped launched the career of Florence & The Machine, who went on to win the Best Album BRIT award last month.
"There is no other radio station which is remotely comparable in scale or depth for showcasing new music," said British music industry body BPI's chief executive Geoff Taylor and Alison Wenham, head of the Association of Independent Music.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte