Magazine article The Spectator

Patronising Rubbish

Magazine article The Spectator

Patronising Rubbish

Article excerpt

Awe know, next year Radio Four is to broadcast a magazine programme about books aimed at children. Let us pray the network's controller Helen Boaden doesn't fall into the trap into which Radio Three is currently mired with its attempts to interest children in classical and contemporary world music, Making Tracks, on each afternoon at 3.40. If I were a child aged between nine and twelve I would be insulted by its patronising tone.

It's presented by two Blue Peter performers, Simon Thomas and Matt Baker, who are given to twittish, jokey banter of the kind a child can see through immediately and which drives adults either to the smelling salts, if such a thing exists any more, or preferably to the gin bottle. It makes Classic FM sound Reithian. Here they are on the waltzes of Johann Strauss the younger, `He's called the younger 'cos 'is dad was also called Johann Strauss but he was the elder.' On the Strauss family, `They're a talented bunch... and they wrote loadsa music . . . '

After playing `The March of the Toreadors' from Bizet's Carmen, they mused on bullfighting: 'I actually went to a bullring and stood in a little section where the bull waits . . . ' `Scary place.' `Oh, it was.' To some music from South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Matt, or was it Simon? opines, `Oh, it's a cool sound that.' Referring to jazz from the cartoon film Aristocats, the wise duo consult, `My cat at home absolutely loves a bit of jazz. Does yours?' `Oh, yeah.' It's Radio Three's answer to Radio Four's Veg Talk without the cackling innuendo of the two demented greengrocers.

No wonder some unsuspecting Radio Three listeners began to self-combust in their armchairs when they heard this first programme of the series sandwiched between music from the BBC Orchestras and a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti. Before they were reduced to cinders, however, some of them put pen to paper and wrote to Feedback, the listeners' complaints programme on Radio Four (Friday). `Dumbing down with a vengeance', `Patronising rubbish', `My ears were assailed by two idiots' were just some of the comments. Apart from the tone and content, listeners wondered why the programme was on when most children hadn't even arrived home from school by that time in the afternoon. I suppose they might just have if there'd been a Harrier jump jet standing by for them or if they lived immediately next door so that, breathless for Ladysmith Black Mambazo or Bhangra music from Southall's Asian community, they could burst in shouting, `Have I missed the Punjabi song? …

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