Dear John Birt: What on earth must I do to get a reply to my letter, an exasperated Radio 4 listener asks the BBC director general

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
I have been very patient. What am I to do next to get a reply out

of the BBC? What is all this talk about accountability and customer response?

On 16 February I heard (as I often do) 'Thought for the Day' on the Today programme. The topic was the anniversary of the Rushdie fatwa and, as I listened, I thought the words of the speaker - a Sikh gentleman whose name I cannot spell as I have never seen it in print - were distressing and offensive. I rang the duty officer and tried to articulate my protest; I also asked for an address to write to. I wrote to it, at once. Nothing happened in response. A month later, on 16 March, I wrote again, and then again, on 25 March. I have heard nothing at all in reply to my letters. I did ask if the talk was scripted and, if so, could I see a copy of the script. I can see that this may have caused difficulty, but I should at least have received an acknowledgement while somebody wondered what to do next. Silence is unacceptable. A recent piece in the Independent ('The terrible bother of making a fuss', 6 April) assured me I should have received a reply within 10 days. So where is it?

I am genuinely puzzled. I really thought I would get a reply. The BBC is constantly soliciting me to write for it, speak on it, be interviewed by it - I have two requests pending even now, and a programme to make in May - but when I ask it a simple question I am ignored. Is this how you treat all your listeners and viewers, or is it just me?

I am quite a fan of the Today programme. It seems so friendly. And I am a connoisseur of the religious slot. I thought it was a bit of a mistake to allow somebody pretending to be a bishop to talk about rail privatisation on Good Friday of all days - I know it was April Fool's Day, too, but even as a non-Christian I thought this a poor joke - but I restrained myself from ringing the duty officer about this. Nor did I ring up when that comic rabbi lost his notes. I am a tolerant listener and I realise that live programmes run risks: clerics, like politicians, will sometimes get lost in radio cars or stuck on trains in the fog or make unfortunate remarks. What I wanted to know was what the speaker actually said on 16 February, and who knew he was going to say it. I still want to know. I want my right of reply.

I suppose I could have written to Feedback and provided your organisation with a bit of free copy. But I don't want to hear my views on Feedback. I want an answer to my letter. My memories of what I heard on 16 February over my morning coffee may become fuzzy with time. Perhaps what the Sikh gentleman said was less irresponsible than I thought. Then again, perhaps it was more so. Am I ever to find out?

(Photograph omitted)

Comments