All the same, Hanks's broader implication is only too true; that a network initially dedicated to the whole of high culture is now largely hogged by music. No doubt the neat demarcation between Third Programme highbrows, Home Service middlebrows and Light Programme lowbrows upon which post- war BBC broadcasting was reconstructed now seems hopelessly naive from our culturally fragmented standpoint; still more so, the pious hope of the BBC's wartime director general, Sir William Haley - as heard in an archival clip during last Sunday's 50th anniversary celebrations - that listeners might be drawn culturally upward from one network to another. But at least it meant that light classics and a fair amount of the standard repertoire were regularly heard by listeners to the Home Service, amid its new programmes, plays and quizzes; just as features, readings and discussions of an excellence that still sometimes marks the best of the Home Service's successor, Radio 4, were programmed from the start on the Third. Then came the (ultimately market-driven) fad for generic broadcasting in the 1960s, with the new Music Programme gradually appropriating the Home Service's musical output and, in 1970, absorbing the Third Programme itself into Radio 3. At a time when so much less was available on disc than now and Classic FM undreamt of, the extending of the Music Programme could be promoted as a progressive move, but its end-result has been the kind of melange we are now offered from 6am to midday every weekday - the blandness of which has finally been brought home by, of all things, the last exit of Paul Gambaccini.
No one at Radio 3 ever pretended they wanted him for his mind. It was his body, or rather his person, they were after as a hopeful lure to the groundlings. Now that Morning Collection is fronted by Catriona Young, a poised presenter but no household name, it emerges more obviously than ever as virtually identical in musical formula to the three hours of On Air that precede it, and the two of Musical Encounters that follow. Not that choice of works in any of these programmes lacks substance or variety; Musical Encounters is often quite adventurous. Rather, it is the failure of nerve one senses in the background that, if the flow of morning music were interrupted by anything in the way of music talks or features, let alone programmes about literature, science or the discussion of ideas, listeners would begin switching off in their thousands. How, after 25 years of generic broadcasting, can the Radio 3 planners be so sure? Come to that, how could the Radio 4 planners be so certain that the introduction, say, of a short 3pm concert each weekday by one of the BBC orchestras would not bring the thousands disaffected by the asinine Afternoon Shift flocking back?Reuse content