Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Michael

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Michael

Article excerpt

My postbag for the year has made me feel like Feedback on Radio Four. Some of the letters I have received about radio programmes are full of accurate insights into various shortcomings; others are delightfully eccentric.

It was interesting to hear from readers in Canada, Cyprus, parts of continental Europe and Ireland, who listen to the BBC World Service. They clearly depend on both Bush House and The Spectator for some sanity in this turbulent world. The most amusing missive to come my way was from a correspondent in Cork who upbraided me for my praise of Test Match Special on Radio Four long wave. A selfconfessed 'hearty', he thought TMS was `smug, juvenile and masturbatory. Not boyish, not endearing, not amusing.' His trumpeted conclusion, as befits a former officer of Her Majesty's armed forces: `One only has to listen to five minutes of it to understand why so many grown women are nowadays turning to lesbianism.'

So, Jonathan Agnew and Freddie Trueman have much to answer for. The delivery of reporters and presenters annoys many. Mr John Boyle in Belgium lamented what he rightly called `the lachrymose dying fall' at the end of sentences, and blamed reporters with Ulster accents. He thought they were copying Michael Buerk's television despatches about the Ethiopian famine some years ago which, while working for him, sounded awful when imitated. I couldn't agree more, but it's not just the Northern Irish, it's the English too. Reporters subconsciously copy others and believe this is how they should sound, as Matthew Parris pointed out earlier this year in an excellent report on the Afternoon Shift on Radio Four. The other problem is that reporters (I will continue to call them that though they now have the absurd Birtian title of News Correspondents) are given little or no instruction in broadcasting skills.

Mrs Ann Holloway in Cyprus complained of mispronunciation, `PRY-merrily, IrryVOCKable, Missal' etc. My own pet hates are Island for Ireland, vunerable instead of vulnerable, and the old favourite harr-ass in the American style. She found examples of this sloppiness in almost every World Service bulletin. Mrs J.G. Hudson in Crewe asked what we had done to deserve Alex Brodie on Today. A very good question but he is only holiday relief. Or should I say holiday purgatory. Mr Ian Jordan in Surbiton bemoaned the political correctness of The Archers, as did other readers, and opined, '...I was convinced some years ago that the changing behaviour of the majority of Ambridge citizens was proof positive that BSE had infected the human species. …

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