Now for the BBC's cost-cutting awards, repeated weekly

This week we're giving the prize to a new Radio 4 item, `I'm Sorry I Haven't a Desert Island'

IT IS not generally known that leading figures from the five BBC radio stations meet regularly to discuss ways and means of improving broadcasting - or ways and means of pleasing John Birt. Thanks to a mole within the BBC I have secured a transcript of part of the latest meeting and think readers may find it instructive. I have bleeped out bad language wherever it is used by these radio bigwigs.

Radio 3: Well, since it's my turn to take the chair, we may as well start with the traditional ceremony of awarding a prize to the best new cost-cutting exercise. As you know, we're always looking for new ways of repeating programmes without seeming to repeat them, and Radio 4 has come up with a real cracker this week. Radio 4: Have I? Radio 3: You certainly have. Just to set the scene, remember that we try as hard as possible not to do naked repeats. Of course, sometimes we have to. I can't pretend when I repeat Composer of the Week that it's anything but a repeat of Composer of the Week. Nevertheless, we all know that it's much better to dress repeats up as "Another Chance to Hear..." or "A Tribute to..." or "The Best of..." or "Such and Such Revisited". As you know, last time we gave the prize to Radio 2... Radio 2: Did you? Radio 3: We certainly did. We gave it to your Thursday night feature Barry Took's Comedy Classics. Radio 2: Why did you do that? Radio 3: On two counts. First, it sounded as if Barry Took was responsible for writing these revisited classics, whereas he had nothing to do with them. Secondly, it sounded as if they weren't repeats. I think the word "classic" bids fair to become our code word for "repeat". This week we are giving the prize to a new Radio 4 item called "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Desert Island"... Radio 2: I'm sorry I haven't a what? Radio 3: Yes, stupid title, isn't it? That's part of its charm. The more puzzling a title is, the less the punter is going to realise it's a disguised repeat. The idea is that celebrities are asked to nominate some extract from a past edition of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue to take to a desert island. So you get someone like Stephen Fry coming on and choosing, or having chosen for them, a bit of an old programme. Which, I need hardly say, is as cheap as John Birt could devoutly wish for. Not only that, but underneath the billing in Radio Times were those words we all love to see - "Repeated from Monday". Well done, Radio 4! Radio 4: Thank you. We at Radio 4 take a pride in spreading things as much as possible. I need hardly remind you that when we pretended to bump Melvyn Bragg off Start the Week and replace him with Jeremy Paxman, what we were really doing was pushing Bragg to Thursday and getting two Start the Weeks for the price of one. Radio 1: For the price of two, surely? Radio 4: No. Bragg and Paxman are both repeated cheaply the same day. Anyway, I am very pleased to accept the prize for "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Desert Island"... Radio 1: Hold on, hold on! Before we go dishing out prizes, may I just point out that getting celebrities to nominate old bits of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue is not exactly a cost-cutting exercise. Is Stephen Fry getting paid for this? Radio 4: I'd have to check, but I can't imagine he is. Stephen is a real sweetie. He'll turn out and endorse the BBC no matter what. Radio 2: Hmm... Radio 3: OK, prize awarded. Incidentally, before we leave "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Desert Island", has anyone come up with any new Desert Island twists? Radio 5: And now it's time to get back into the thick of the action, as it happens, where it happens! Radio 3: Sorry, Radio 5? Radio 5: Oh, blimey, sorry. I must have nodded off. We have a motto on Radio 5 - if nothing is happening, panic and go into overdrive! Radio 3: Thank you. As I was saying, we are always offering prizes for new twists on the Desert Island notion. Asking some nearly famous person to nominate his favourite records is cheap, cheerful and... well, cheap. We on Radio 3 have pirated the idea on several occasions, as The Tingle Factor, as Private Passions, and so on. Radio 2: Hold on - we've now got George Melly asking people what their favourite jazz records are on Thursdays, and playing them. Does that count? Radio 3: Mmm... sort of. Jazz people are always pretty boring. Radio 2: Ah, but he's not asking jazz people. He's asking real people, like Kenneth Clarke and Ian Dury! Radio 3: Excellent! Radio 1: To be strictly accurate, you should nominate the whole of Radio 1. The entire output is virtually nothing but people playing their favourite records over and over again...

I'm afraid that's all we have time for. If you'd like a cassette of the full meeting, just send me an SAE and a blank cheque.

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