BBC unmoved by campaign to save 'Home Truths' show

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The Independent Online

It is the award-winning Radio 4 programme that divides listeners between those who love its idiosyncratic style and those who feel that it represents a "dumbing-down" of a venerable station. But its imminent demise is being greeted with the usual howls of protest.

Despite the outcry, it appears certain that Home Truths, the Saturday morning programme indelibly associated with the late John Peel, will be scrapped in the spring. Friends and family of the much-loved broadcaster believe its demise was inevitable given the show's dependence on Peel's style of presentation.

The BBC has confirmed that despite the volume of protests lodged with the station's message board since the end of Home Truths was announced in December, the programme will not be reprieved.Home Truths, a mixture of triumphs, tragedies and trivia from the personal lives of listeners, began in 1998 as a vehicle for Peel. It won several awards and attracted a regular audience of about 2.5 million.

"The number of letters we have had has been in single figures and no one is marching up and down outside," said a spokeswomen.

Since Peel's death a number of other broadcasters, including Michael Rosen and Tom Robinson, have presented the show. However, BBC sources suggested that the Radio 4 controller, Mark Damazar, had decided in the immediate aftermath of Peel's death last October that its end was inevitable.

In his own reply to the message board protests, Mr Damazar said it "had not been an easy decision to make" but the show was ending because Peel's "unique personality" had been at its heart.

Anger by those close to Peel might have forced the BBC to reconsider, but Clive Selwood, Peel's long-time friend and former manager, said yesterday he was content to see it go. "We all felt that, despite the best efforts of the other presenters, to them it was just another gig, while John's contribution was the programme. We all used to listen to it because of his links. It is probably just as well it is coming off."

Mr Selwood disclosed that Peel was aware of criticisms that the programme was too soft-centred. "John was concerned about that and he had numerous discussions with the producers, but they all seemed to want to keep it that way."

Last autumn, a special edition of Home Truths was broadcast from "Peel Acres" the family home in Suffolk, to mark the anniversary of his death.

Tom Ravenscroft, one of the DJ's sons, said the family was sad to see the programme axed. "I guess that it ended for us a while ago, because we haven't listened very much since my dad died... they did a show with us which was nice and we are all very fond of the people involved."

The DJ Andy Kershaw, a friend of Peel, said: "I thought it was daft to continue without Peel, because it was only his supreme broadcasting skills that made you want to listen to a programme that was essentially piffle."

The opposite view was taken by many listeners who posted their opinions on the Radio 4 website message board. "This show made me feel proud of our slightly eccentric, very diverse nation," said one contributor. Another said: "It's a wonderful programme, which celebrates the diversity of human life of so-called 'normal' people, and not a celebrity in sight". One contributor condemned the decision to axe the show as "insane, idiotic and blinkered".

Concerns have been raised about the likely nature of the replacement programme which the BBC has said will have a similar theme, while several contributors worried that the "smug" Fi Glover, presenter of Radio 4's Broadcasting House, might be given the job.

The BBC says the new programme style has not yet been finalised.

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