Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Facts, No Story and No Credibility; Conspiracies Sky One

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Facts, No Story and No Credibility; Conspiracies Sky One

Article excerpt


I WAS amused to see Norman Lebrecht rightly praising Radio 3 for its forthcoming 10-day "Bach bonanza" while simultaneously berating BBC television for its lack of commitment to classical music. Amused because at this very moment I'm producing series III of The Complete Organ Works of JS Bach, a massive ongoing commission from BBC2 which for the past two years has been providing the precise musical experience that he claims is currently absent from television.

As this newspaper's TV critic, I've frequently been just as appalled as he is by the dismal arts coverage on BBC1, a channel where Alan Titchmarsh is apparently regarded as a dangerous intellectual, and where Alan Yentob's sole cultural ambition seems to be to get every single one of his friends onto television.

But BBC2 does put some (albeit not enough) serious music onto the screen, amid the game shows and lifestyle programmes, so isn't that worth at least one cheer from our arts critic?

I'm sitting in a chilly German cathedral as I write this column, with Bach's music being recorded all around me, but an hour ago I was on a German bus, absentmindedly whistling The Horst Wessel Song.

Fortunately, a colleague nudged me before an unfortunate international incident could occur, but although my musical faux pas was an entirely subconscious one (I've been known to whistle Wheels on Fire during cremations, too), it does suggest that echoes of WWII still exert a powerful grip on the British psyche.

Given that the war wasn't exactly the German nation's finest hour, it's not surprising that they moved on from it a long ago, and there are few programmes about it on any of their television channels; whereas 60 years on, British television continues to pick over every last detail of the conflict, in programmes such as last night's Conspiracies.

Our national obsession with WWII seems insatiable, even clinical, and I often wonder why.

Probably because, as the disaster of Blair's Iraq venture continues to unfold, Britons can at least take comfort in remembering a war that had some clear moral purpose and a happy ending.

"Did the Nazis invade the Suffolk coastline in the summer of 1940?"

was last night's topic and I, for one, immediately suspected a conspiracy.

Why? Because rumours about the "invasion of Shingle Street" (a remote stretch of beach near Woodbridge) were exposed as a myth three years ago in a BBC documentary, so there surely must be some hidden reason why Sky One were now rehashing a story that had already been thoroughly discredited on TV.

Worse, the "investigator" was the increasingly irritating, mullethaired Danny Wallace, whose fauxnaif rumour-as-humour approach to the subject sabotaged his own plausibility from the outset, while his comedy re-enactments of naval battles with rubber ducks and party poppers seemed callous rather than amusing, once he'd told us about the hundreds of British casualties that ensued. …

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