Danny Baker calls BBC bosses 'pinheaded weasels' after revealing his BBC London 94.9 show The Treehouse is to be axed just a week before he is inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Thursday 01 November 2012
As if the BBC was not already suffering from enough self-inflicted damage, it today axed an award-winning show by one of its most popular presenters, Danny Baker.
And if any of its stars was not going to go quietly it was Baker, a prolific user of Twitter who today deployed the social media platform - and then the corporation's own airwaves - to castigate the "pinheaded weasels" in BBC management who had approved the cost-cutting measure.
The timing of the decision could hardly have been worse, coming the week before Baker, is to be inducted into the Radio Academy's Hall of Fame. The presenter is already a multiple Sony Gold winner at the radio industry's annual awards.
The BBC is facing a management crisis over the Jimmy Savile scandal and was anxious to avoid further negative publicity by asking Baker not to mention the demise of his show on BBC London, known as The Treehouse.
But Baker, who returned to broadcasting last year after seven months off air fighting cancer, predictably took no notice. "BBC asked me not to say anything just yet about axing best show on British Radio. Why? Because it's embarrassing? Because they'll look bad?"
Baker, who uses the Twitter name @prodnose, then began tweeting supportive comments from celebrity supporters including comedian Ross Noble - who described him as "our greatest radio talent" - and Stephen Fry - who described the BBC managers as "Dickwits".
A comment from Rob Brydon mocked the BBC's decision to drop Baker's show, the comedian saying he had "had it up to here with his wit, warmth and originality".
When the BBC publicity machine attempted to neuter Baker's criticisms by suggesting that it was discussing alternative creative opportunities with the South London presenter, he promptly returned to the Internet to argue the opposite. "BBC London and I are NOT in discussion about a new weekly show. In fact, I haven't heard a single word from them at all."
The BBC should have seen it coming. When rumours first began to surface last year that Baker's show was to be a victim of budget cuts to BBC local radio he immediately went public. The BBC insisted no final decisions had been made and the show appeared to have been given a reprieve.
Today Baker used the last segment of his show to tear into his employers. "Community? London? You weasels wouldn't know the meaning of the word." He told listeners that the managers who had cut his programme "should have choked on their abacuses".
He repeated the claim that BBC bosses had asked him to remain silent about the show's fate for another two weeks. "Nice way to treat a bloke who had cancer," he added.
Highlighting the BBC's other current problems he remarked to listeners that the organisation had paid more to Jimmy Savile in "six months" than Baker's co-presenters Amy Lame and Baylen Leonard had received in ten years.
Other BBC stars last night came forward to express their dismay at management's thinking. Gary Lineker said he was "flabbergasted". Comedy actor Stephen Mangan bemoaned a "bad, wrong and strange decision".
A BBC spokesperson said: “The decision wasn’t driven by savings. All stations from time to time refresh their schedules and this is no different. We’ve been talking to Danny Baker’s agent about a weekly programme.”
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