Cries & Whispers

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THE BBC has finally put a name to its new news and sport radio network, which takes over Radio 5's wavelength on 28 March. Apparently taking its inspiration from a popular fruit juice, the corporation has decided the new network shall be called Radio 5 Live. Leaving aside concerns about the network's likely juiciness and fruit content for the moment, it strikes me that this is a misnomer. Consider the facts: according to the latest independent figures, published by the Radio Joint Audience Research body, Radio 5 is the only BBC network increasing its audience size. More importantly, in its short history Radio 5 has provided a home for some of broadcasting's more vulnerable waifs and strays: children's programmes, regional programmes, language programmes, comedy, world music, new drama . . . the future of all of which must surely now be in doubt. Radio 5 Live's controller, Jenny Abramsky, has described the new name thus: 'The combined excitement and professionalism of our journalism and sports coverage is there in this name.' But there must be others out there who feel, as I do, that calling the new network Radio 5 Live is just a sop for the corporation's guilt. After all, they've torn the heart out of Radio 5: wouldn't Radio 5 Dead be more accurate?

SOMEHOW the story has got around that the plum role of the Rev Edward Casaubon in the BBC's Middlemarch (above, left) is being played by Patrick Malahide. We may even have given that impression in these pages. But I can now reveal that the plodding academic who spends so much time with his books is in fact being played by John Tavener, the composer, who had a bestseller in 1991 with The Protecting Veil. On reflection, the casting makes perfect sense. Tavener (above, right, as himself) is a religious man: he is on record as saying that he writes for the glory of God. And as my picture shows, he was also able to help the BBC in its efforts to save money. He needed neither a flowing wig for the back of his head, nor any painstakingly counterfeited baldness for the front. Better still, he was able to film several key scenes in his own sitting-room, thereby saving thousands of pounds of studio time: as my picture shows, Tavener's den is equipped with just the sort of books that Casaubon pores over, and just the sort of lighting that you would choose to emphasise his crepuscular character. The IoS would like to apologise to Mr Tavener, on behalf of the whole of Fleet Street, for failing to spot his contribution earlier, and to congratulate him on the remarkable feat of starring in a major drama serial on BBC2 at the same time as having a festival of his music on Radio 3 (see Today's Radio, page 79).

READERS' solutions to the two mysteries in the plot of The Piano (C&W, 9 Jan) will now appear next Sunday - so many good suggestions have come in that passing them on will take more space than the arts editor usually gives me. Late entries can be faxed up to Tuesday evening (to 071-956 1469).

(Photographs omitted)