Open Eye; Opening Up: Listener's voice

Oh what a circus, oh what a show - plus an OU qualification
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Indy Lifestyle Online
AFTER A packed life as a freelance writer, broadcaster, PR consultant and itinerant soldier's wife, OU graduate Jocelyn Hay founded the Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV) in 1983 as a citizen's pressure group to champion the cause of public service broadcasting.

Jocelyn, now in her seventies, was awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours List,and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's award for Exceptional Contribution to Public Service Broadcasting.

What was your family background?

I was born in Swansea. My father was an accountant. In 1940, a day after my 13th birthday, I was evacuated to Australia where I lived for five years.

How were your school years?

Very chequered. When I went to Australia the curriculum was different, and when Japan came into the war, halfway through my schooling, I was evacuated again to an up-country school which was different again. I had to leave school at 15 and go into a routine clerical job with the water board. It couldn't have been more boring.

What made you start studying with the OU?

I was married with two small children and took on the running of the local Brownie pack. I did features for Woman's Hour, You and Yours and In Touch. I ended up working as head of the press and pr department at Girl Guide HQ. It involved a journey to work of roughly two hours, and I decided to use the train to do a bit of directed reading. I had been 'eavesdropping' on OU radio broadcasts, and enjoyed them, so I started with the OU in 1975. It never occurred to me I was going for a degree, but when I started studying I became absolutely rivetted. I graduated in 1982.

What difference has the OU made?

The OU ordered my experience in a logical way, it made it all relevant to what I could see in the pattern of my own life. It really widened my horizons tremendously.

What does your job involve, and how did you get it?

In 1983 the managing director of Radio 4, Richard Francis, came up with a proposal to change Radio 4 to an all news and current affairs channel. A group of three or four of us got together and said: "Radio 4 is an institution - why should one man have the power to change it?" So we started the Voice of the Listener (as it was then). I gave it office space in my house in Kent, and we went from there. Our campaign on Radio 4 was successful, and we realised there was a need for an independent body that would look at the range of broadcasting issues and represent consumer interests.

Why does it matter?

It is essential to maintain the principle of public service broadcasting, across both the publicly-funded channels and the commercial channels.

This means that there is an obligation on the channels to provide certain things, for example: documentaries and current affairs programmes; programmes for minorities; a range of children's programmes (not just cartoons); religious programmes; and a proportion of locally-produced programmes. If you leave it entirely to the market, the experience of every country that has done it has been that the range of programmes on offer gets narrower. Without a public service ethos, there would never have been an Open University.

What are your goals for the future?

To get the VLV better known, and get it on a sustainable footing so I can hand over, and I think we're almost at that stage. BBC Director General Greg Dyke has agreed to speak at our next annual conference, as his predecessors John Birt and Michael Checkland did before him. I think that shows the respect the VLV has earned.

Any regrets?

Well, I lost out on my schooling but I've made up for it, so not really. I've been very lucky in my life, I've done a lot.

To what do you attribute your success?

Good health, and the ability, that freelances have, to bounce back. And a tolerant and supportive family.

How would you like to be remembered?

I've never thought about it.

To find out more about the VLV contact Jocelyn Hay or Linda Forbes on 01474 352835.

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