Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Peel Away the Tweeness; 'This Is a Man Driven by an Alastair Campbellsize Ego Talking about His Sexagenarian Domestic Bliss When a Real Rebel Would Be Raging'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Peel Away the Tweeness; 'This Is a Man Driven by an Alastair Campbellsize Ego Talking about His Sexagenarian Domestic Bliss When a Real Rebel Would Be Raging'

Article excerpt

Byline: VICTOR LEWIS-SMITH

WELL, things have come to a pretty pass when you find yourself wholeheartedly agreeing with Sir Bernard Ingham (Margaret Thatcher's dubious ex- press man, and a professional Yorkshireman who loves Hebden Bridge so much that he lives in Surrey so he can pop into London TV studios at every opportunity to tell us about the glories of life up t' North).

But he was right to declare that the BBC has been treated disgracefully in recent days, and I'm delighted to see that Greg Dyke is now making a Dianalike transformation into the People's DG who won't go quietly.

Why should four injudicious words in an otherwise exemplary radio broadcast result in the Corporation being shaken to its core, when our political masters can lead us unwillingly into war on a patently false prospectus, only to emerge Scott-free (sorry, Hutton-free)?

The stink of Orwellian Newspeak and Doubletalk hangs heavy in the air, most of it emanating from the mouth of our pathologically honest Christian vicar of a Prime Minister. So now, my brethren, let us join hands and sing hymn number 247, "For Those in Peril on the BBC."

However, while St Gregory fights a valiant rearguard action for the BBC's inalienable right to broadcast stories that are

almost-well-sort-of-very-nearly true, let us not forget the infantilisation of BBC1, for which he (along with his Dyke-in-a-skirt controller, Lorraine Heggessey) was also responsible.

A few years back, under James Boyle, Radio 4 seemed to be succumbing to similar downmarket tendencies, but under its present controller, Helen Boaden, it has thankfully returned to its rightful role as the home of well-informed debate and high-quality drama, with one major exception.

Every Saturday morning, as her channel booms out digitally on Ch854 of Mr Murdoch's excellent Sky Plus satellite system, I shudder with revulsion as the sound of Dick Dale's surf guitar introduces yet another toe-curlingly twee edition of Home Truths. Not so much a "wry look at the foibles of family life" (as the billing claims) as proof that although the pictures are better on radio than on television, the audio can sometimes be worse.

At the heart of this disingenuous programme is John Peel, the former enfant terrible and godfather of punk who now markets himself as everyone's favourite uncle and National Treasure. The erstwhile voice of the radical underground has transmogrified into a balder thinner Libby Purves (not difficult), as he presents a show aimed at the sort of strait-laced listeners who consider Michael Bywater to be a dangerous firebrand, and regard getting an "Imagine my Surprise!"

letter into their local newspaper as a major literary achievement (yes, I know this is a local newspaper too, so save your stamps). …

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