Friday, 03 June 2016

Radio Review: 3 June

The BBC White Paper makes murky judgements

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176I was delighted and amused last weekend to hear Graham Norton (Radio 2, Saturdays, 10am) come out of a record by questioning why it was being played on Radio 2. ‘Is it on the playlist?’ he enquired of his producer, Malcolm Prince, making it quite clear that he thought it had no place anywhere, and especially not on his show.

Although the title and artist have left an indelible blank on my memory, it wasn’t a record I’d heard anywhere else. When I listen to commercial stations, it always seems to be the same nine songs over and over again, and I doubt if station bosses would approve of presenters taking a robust view of any of them. Due to the unique way the BBC is funded, Graham Norton can play music you’ve never heard before and tell you that he doesn’t like it. I think that’s something to be treasured.

That’s why the bits in the Government’s recent White Paper on the BBC Charter about radio baffle me. It refers to ‘ensur[ing] the more mainstream services of BBC One, Radio 1 and Radio 2 are more differentiated from the rest of the market in areas such as playlists, genres, and levels of new programming’. I’d say that Radios 1 and 2 are doing pretty well on this front already. Anyway, politicians only ever listen to the Today programme, so what do they know?

I had the misfortune to hear a terrible fawning interview with historian David Starkey on a BBC local station that shall remain nameless. ‘Oh you’re so right,’ the presenter said at one point to a man who’s clearly not been challenged anywhere near enough. If I were the Culture Secretary, I’d put something extremely binding in the Charter about always giving preening ninnies a hard time.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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