Dealing with the cowboys who run the Rodeo Times

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The Independent Culture
THERE'S A very odd thing in my current West/Wales edition of the Radio Times. They've printed the same page twice. It appears first on page 62 as Today's Choices for Saturday's TV - a list of five programmes which some unnamed person at the Radio Times thinks are better than all the rest. But if you turn to page 96 and look at Today's Choices for Tuesday 26 January, you will find the same five programmes recommended even though they have all gone out three days previously.

You might say that accidents will happen. On the other hand, you might say that printing the same page twice was a cock-up of such blistering inanity that a local weekly paper might be ashamed of it. In that case, how do you think the Radio Times, one of the best-selling and richest though not apparently competent magazines in the world, might feel about it?

Well, judging from my experience, the Radio Times, in common with most branches of the BBC, might well be disinclined to apologise or take any blame. The last time I wrote to the Radio Times to complain was in connection with two programmes I was involved with in the same week. One was an edition of Booked! on Radio 4 and the other was The Club That Scott Built, a story of Ronnie Scott's Club I had presented on Radio 2.

The Radio Times listed a quite different set of panellists on Booked! from the four who were actually appearing that week, and no presenter was named at all for the Ronnie Scott programme. (I wouldn't have minded this so much except that the programme had got a Sony Award - the very reason it was being repeated - and it would have been nice to get a mention.)

Anyway, I wrote to the Radio Times to wonder why my name had been dropped from both the programmes I appeared in that week and inquiring if I were the subject of some vendetta. After a very long time I received a reply from the managing editor, a Mr Hughes, who sighed and said that they relied on the information passed to them by the producers of the programmes and could not be responsible for mistakes therein.

This might have been true in the old days. Nowadays, or so I am told by producers, things are rather different; the producers give the Radio Times notes on the programmes which are then slashed, changed, rewritten etc by the RT according to their own requirements. The magazine therefore has responsibility for its own rewrites. And to imply that they don't have the wealth or the resources to check their facts is breathtakingly arrogant.

Whenever I have pointed out errors by the BBC in print I have never heard a cheep of an apology or a correction. I once excoriated a Radio 3 programme on Jelly Roll Morton which, although only 15 minutes long, contained more than that number of major errors. Nobody ever bothered to reply.

So here's another complaint. Recently Radio 3 has taken to inserting trails between programmes. Well, they are entitled, I suppose. But sometimes the trails replace the programmes and they are not entitled to do that. Recently, when Jazz Record Requests was scheduled for 5pm, they started a long trail for some dreary opera programme at 5pm - the scheduled start of the scheduled programme - and let it run for nearly five minutes. Then the announcer said: "Well, it's four minutes past five and time for Jazz Record Requests..." Wrong, mister. It's four minutes past five and four minutes late for Jazz Record Requests...

I'll let you know if anyone bothers to explain this high-handedness to me. Meanwhile I'm still waiting for some communication about an incident a year or two back, when the Radio Times listed a repeat of the Peruvian edition of Great Railway Journeys I made back in 1980. "I'm afraid we can't follow Miles Kington on his journey to Peruvia," said the announcer, "so here's a trip down Irish canals instead."

Nobody from the BBC could be bothered to explain why, so I rang the duty office and they finally said they thought that one section of the BBC had leased the rights to B-Sky-B for a year and another section, unaware of this, had scheduled a repeat of the programme and had to cancel at the last moment (without any apology for this appalling incompetence, in the true BBC manner).

STOP PRESS: I have just been telephoned by Mr Hughes of the Radio Times in answer to yesterday's piece. He says there was indeed a mistake in my edition of the Radio Times, caused by "human error", for which he is sorry, and he is happy to reimburse the cover price to any complainant. So I was wrong. The BBC does sometimes apologise. I only wish I had had the wit to ask him where Peruvia was.

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