Friday, December 2, 2016

Wednesday bombshell

On a ship where too many officers of the deck are eager to please, slight tilts of the rudder ordered by the captain can get magnified into major re-directions of course.

The great BBC helmsman, John Birt wanted more business news and editors. There remains a machine-like business news delivery, of occasional insight, on the News Channel, 5Live, Today, Breakfast and BBC World. Editors, for Politics, Business, Economics, World Affairs, Sport, Media and more remain omni-present.

Greg Dyke wanted more live sport, and shifted millions in that direction. The retrenchment continues.

Mark Thompson wanted more Shakespeare and science. Thus The Hollow Crown, Brian Cox and Bang Goes The Theory.

Lord Hall wants more of everything that he's passionate about. He sometimes can't make up his mind what he's most passionate about, but it includes drama, arts, music, natural history, local radio, Radio 4, Strictly, Dr Who, education, Children's, anything from Wales, Scotland etc etc.

James Purnell now owns network radio, so one has to presume the decision to snuff the guttering flame of Midweek by Controller R4 Gwyneth Williams was run past him. Joy of joys for Jim, the replacement for the tired chat show includes 24 half-hour shows a year in which major arts personalities interview each other sequentially. Joy of joy for Gwyneth, this reduces presenter fees*. Joy of joy for Midweek presenter Libby Purves - reduced from a 52-week-a-year presenter fee for 55 minutes, to a monthly fee for a half-hour show about British theatre. We are not told what will fill Wednesday mornings from April 2017 for the 28 weeks a year when there are no arts personalities to talk to arts personalities.

Midweek sort of made sense when Radio 4 had a stable of Start The Week and Stop The Week. In its prime it was a vehicle for Russell Harty, alongside birthday interviewer Sue Lawley, and a sharp look at "The Week So Far" with Russell Davies. That ended in 1981, when Russell H decided it was clashing too much with his TV work. I joined on attachment as producer, and was presented with a sort of live audition roster of hosts and the hardest weekly job I've done.

Pete Murray, Mavis Nicholson, Noel Edmonds, Tony Lewis and Henry Kelly all got a couple of weeks each. Looking at the budget, there seemed to be loads of dosh, so I had fun booking music acts - including Louis Armstrong's old band, and Phil Pope to write a weekly comic ditty. In turned out that the departmental manager had already siphoned off half the budget to subsidise Woman's Hour, so the end of my run turned into a hunt for cheap/free guests. I booked in Sarah Dunant for the Sue Lawley role. Sarah was a real trouper, helping new presenters through the longueurs of some duff guests.

In the end, the departmental manager instructed me to book Libby, who was for some reason available. I decided six months was enough and went back to Newsbeat.

I am still available in places of refreshment in the W1A area to regale old and new with tales from "Bill Rogers: The Midweek Glory Years", an as-yet-unwritten bestseller....

*The programme structure first appeared on Radio 4 in December 2004, in the form of Chain Reaction, with Jenny Eclair interviewing Jimmy Carr. Sky Arts have run four series of a similar format, Living the Dream, which started in 2011 with Stephen Fry and Bill Wyman in conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Other people who read this.......