Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Feeling the Pinch: The Real Scandals in Radio Broadcasting This Year Were Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Feeling the Pinch: The Real Scandals in Radio Broadcasting This Year Were Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts

Article excerpt

The Ross-Brand scandal may have dominated the news in 2008, but the most important radio story of the year was actually the collapse of Channel 4 Radio, the long-trumpeted competitor to Radio 4. For a while, whenever I met up with friends who worked at the BBC station, the evening would quickly dissolve into fantasy about the promised land of big budgets and open minds at Channel 4. At the festival of workshops and discussions organised for BBC Radio employees at Broadcasting House in the summer, Bob Shennan, former head of Radio 5 Live, was brought in to talk about the imminent launch of the new station. The event was heaving. Bring us your huddled masses, said Shennan. Two days later the bottom fell out of Channel 4's advertising revenues and the radio project was scrapped.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Not that I'm bashing BBC Radio--thank God for it. After a month spent in America earlier this year, I was quite literally downloading Farming Today with a tear in the eye. ("As pork from Ireland is removed from the shelves, we ask where has all the meat gone?" Truly, this programme is the jewel in the BBC's crown.) But there will be real tears if the cutbacks continue, especially at the World Service. Walking the corridors, one can no longer look into the windows of the Romanian Service (all gone) or the Russian Service (cut to shreds) and feel the tremor of the speaking globe. I occasionally work at the station as a presenter and, let me tell you, if they pinch any more pennies, in five years there'll be nothing left.

Only the other day an internal directive insisted producers are to do more interviews over the phone rather than in foreign studios--damn the quality. And as BBC producers have learned, peculiar things can happen over the phone.

When the Ross-Brand story broke I happened to be watching CNN in New Jersey. It appeared in a strapline across the bottom of the screen: COLIN POWELL ENDORSES OBAMA LIVE IN FIFTEEN MINUTES ON MEET THE PRESS ... BILL CLINTON TO SPEAK AT A RALLY IN FLORIDA IN SUPPORT OF OBAMA: FIRST PUBLIC SHOW OF SUPPORT SINCE HILLARY SNUB ... JONATHAN ROSS SUSPENDED FROM THE BBC AFTER SEX PHONE CALLS. I thought, hey, I so wish I was back in the UK. Didn't the whole thing feel very queeny to you? Two bullying misogynists mincing around a studio talking about their willies. The worst thing about the ensuing carry-on was all the arse-licking of the former Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas. …

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