Saturday, November 21, 2015

Don Pedro

I reckon more than 500 turned out yesterday for a funeral and wake they'll never forget. A splendid, humanist farewell to "The Voice of Radio 4", Peter Donaldson.

There were fond remembrances of his many qualities, but perhaps overlooked was his occasionally risky fearlessness. In 1977/8, a new Controller of Radio 4 thought the Today programme was pretty shoddy, alongside much of radio current affairs - 'the trivial, the derivative, the instant, the merely inadequate and the frankly incestuous - all were thriving'. He decided it should be tightened up to run for just two slots, from 0700 to 0735 and from 0800 to 0835. 0635 to 0700 and 0735 to 0800 would be filled by a potpourri of trails, weather, Prayer and Thought For The Day, hosted by one of Radio 4's continuity announcers, to be called, excitingly, Up To The Hour.

One morning, when it was Peter's turn to host at 0635, he took the mick something rotten. Aged 32, this was a career-threatening move, and probably even Peter didn't know fully what behind-the-scenes manoeuvres were required to save him. But he was on the right side - and in June 1978, Today was restored, Up To The Hour was airbrushed from history, and the Controller was moved to Radio 3.

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