Wanted crimes against broadcasting (and it's not only Libby Purves's 'Midweek' they're gunning for)

Following the furore over the threat to the 'UK Theme', Radio 4 listeners have their say on the biggest turn-offs on the airwaves
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The Independent Online

Matthew Norman, journalist & commentator

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I've asked the question before, but without an adequate reply, so I'll ask it yet again: can anybody cite a more depressing 12 word sentence in the English language than "And now on Radio 4, it's time for Midweek with Libby Purves"?

Certainly it's hard to imagine such a congregation of the determinedly dull being permitted airtime in America. There, the Eighth Amendment regarding cruel and unusual punishment would protect captives - in the back of taxis, for example, or the dentist's chair - from exposure to the sort of witless coffee morning chatter that apparently passes here for middle-class coffee morning bliss

Discounting that moronic eruption between Joan Rivers and Darcus Howe, the staple diet is the plugging of tiresome memoirs, the patronising of ostentatiously un-Radio 4 type people (this week, a hip-hop artist) to offset any accusations of Home Counties smugness, and above all the glorification of insanely pointless, faux-eccentric exhibitionism.

Have you spent the past four years crossing the Pacific in a plastic washing up bowl, or climbed K2 on your knees with a kestrel strapped to your scalp? If so, Libby's waiting in the studio with an avant garde mime artist from Venezuela, a professor of cryogenics from the University of the Unification Church in Seoul, and a druid from Monmouthshire who wants to reverse his sex change for the third time.

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Today, on the other hand, which Libby presented herself until the coronation of the Queen, remains the guv'nor news programme on either broadcast media.

On mornings when John Humphrys is absent, it naturally loses a fair chunk of its authority, and the last half hour often drags a little. But even with Jim Naughtie getting ratty at the constant interruptions from interviewees, there is nowhere else to be between 7am-8.30am, and the 8.10am interview is unmissable for anyone vaguely interested in following current affairs.

Lizzie Roper, actress & comedienne

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I love Loose Ends, and was brought up with The Archers. My dog used to sing along to the theme tune, and though I've never followed the plot, it just reminds me of my mum.

Andy Kershaw, presenter

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I am delighted that Mark Damazer has axed Veg Talk - following my advice on the Today Programme - "UK Theme" and Home Truths. Next to the gallows should be the endless consumer twitterings of You and Yours, the smug and inconsequential Midweek, and Woman's Hour, which has two basic assumptions running through it: firstly, all men are bastards; and secondly, all women are mesmerised by their own reproductive organs.

I'd banish Weekend Woman's Hour. For goodness sakes, after the misery of five days of Woman's Hour, why then inflict the fusspots and bossy boots on us at the weekend?

Money Box and Money Box Live must go, they are programmes for penny-pinching, Daily Express-reading, curtain-twitchers, and The Now Show; which is tedious and not funny at all, and has just become Weekending which was scrapped on the grounds that it was also tedious. Quote Unquote should be stopped, because it is just more cosy and self-satisfied nonsense, populated by "celebrities" that we've never heard of, and we should scrap Excess Baggage, a travel programme which never travels anywhere, presented by the unfunny smart-ass Sandi Toksvig.

Feedback should be on all year round, rather than in bursts and I would shake-up the choice of contestants on Any Questions; it is too Westminster-obsessed and needs to broaden its boundaries. I would like to hear someone like Alexi Sayle on there.

I'm not against PM per se, but followed by the Six O'Clock News? I cannot understand why we have two perfectly thorough news programmes next to each other on the schedule.

If I were controller I'd regard this as gentle pruning of the dead wood. I would replace these programmes with debate, which is, to borrow a common cliché, the new rock 'n' roll. There is a hunger for it in the country and that should be reflected on Radio 4.

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I welcome many of the changes Damazer is bringing in, such as Matthew Bannister being in charge of Broadcasting House rather than Fi Glover. I welcome the new programme Profile, and although I'm yet to hear it, the Obituary Programme. There is a lot about Radio 4 that I value and admire, including File on 4, Analysis and The Moral Maze. What I want from Radio 4 in a nutshell is stimulation and thought provoking programmes. The consumer-related dross must die.

John Humphrys, Today presenter

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I have no very strong views [about the "UK Theme" being dropped ] but I rather suspect lots of the people banging on about it now (certainly some of the politicians) have probably heard it half-a-dozen times in the past 50 years and they're jumping on to bandwagons. Can't deny its appeal but only as a very occasional treat - even the very best music sours if you hear it every day and this is not the very best.

They're right about Veg Talk - deserves to be composted.

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Not sure what else I'd drop but I would defend You and Yours (most unfashionable thing to do I know). Again it's being attacked by people I suspect never hear it. It's changed a lot over the years and is now often a bloody good listen.

Bella Freud, novelist

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I hate those modern sit-com like things that are on from time to time, and modern versions of Give Us A Clue, they are so annoying. They should stick with the old stuff and add in a few more plays.

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I love Radio 4 in general, but I would like them to make The Archers plot more boring, like it used to be, and give us less of this razzle. And I would love to hear more from Marcel Berlins, the legal commentator. He is so intelligent, inspiring and funny.

Jeremy Paxman, 'Newsnight' presenter

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I'm glad Radio 4 has got rid of Veg Talk - I thought it was a programme for vegetables, by vegetables.

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We've no idea what the head of Radio 4's playing at [by dropping the " UK Theme"]- we're thinking of using it every night. They could have done something useful, like murdering You and Yours.

The Shipping Forecast is central to the general zeitgeist of Radio 4, and must stay.

Adrian Chiles, television & radio presenter

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There is a kind of snootiness about Radio 4 presenters, and I really hate that. They tend to look down on Five Live, when actually I bet none of them could hold their end down doing a three hour programme - you've got to be an expert on pretty much everything - from horse racing to politics to foreign affairs.

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I absolutely love the Afternoon Play - it's fantastic and I don't know why they don't do more of them. I finish doing Working Lunch and then I go for a run so I often listen to it then. Of every five plays, one I can't make head or tail of, two are OK, and two are absolutely life changing.

Mark Borkowski, public relations consultant

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The "UK Theme" hypnotically wakes you up, but it does sound pretty old-fashioned, it's about time people move on. Home Truths should be shot at dawn, it is just too synonymous with the eclecticism of John Peel.

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"Sailing By" is a beautiful piece of music, which should stay. The treasures of Radio 4 are Eddie Meyer, The Archers and Fi Glover. Meyer is a genuine one-off, with a great sense of balance. He has a light, clever and intelligent touch and people have to respond to his dry tones. But people are working later, and there is a case for putting him on later when there are more listeners, rather than at 5pm.

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley

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I cannot make head nor tail of any logical reason that they would want to get rid of the "UK Theme" - I have put down an Early Day Motion, and written to the Director General of the BBC about this. I think this is political correctness; Radio 4 is worried that people not born here will find it offensive. If their view is that not many people listen to it, it is because it is on at 5.30am.

Julie Burchill, author & journalist

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It would be awful if the Shipping Forecast went, but no doubt the person who decided to drop the medley will think that the Forecast is too old-fashioned, or it offends some of the islands not mentioned. I do think it's a terrible idea to drop the "UK Theme", there's many a sleepless night when I've listened to it.

Ed Smith, Middlesex & England cricketer, and writer

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Within the Today Programme, "Thought for the Day" is usually a disappointment.

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I mainly listen to the Today Programme, and though it will never happen, I would be distraught if it went. I think that Radio 4 should do something like Radio 3's "Bach Christmas", and set aside some time to explore the work of great writers - so have a "Shakespeare Christmas" or "Dickens Christmas". That is what the BBC does so well, and that none of the commercial stations would even think of.

Will Self, author & journalist

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The "UK Theme", and replace it with the overture from Tristan and Isolde by Wagner, which is very rousing and nationalistic - wrong nation, but who cares? Or Richard Strauss's "Sprach Zarathustra".

Everyone wants rid of You and Yours, don't they? And they should do away with all afternoon plays, which fill me with doom and are staggeringly grim.

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Just A Minute, though some of their panellists are weaker than in the heyday with Kenneth Williams

Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer

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I have always seen the "UK Theme" as one of the symbols of Britishness and the celebration of British culture. It is for the listeners to decide and I know they are making their voices heard.

Michael Moorcock, author

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The Archers, when the theme tune comes on, I switch the radio off. I hated from the moment it started.

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I am so grateful for Radio 4. When you are living in America you realise how good and eclectic it is. I like Start the Week, The Moral Maze and Any Questions - any programmes that debate the issues of the day. I simply don't get that here in Texas. I also listen to PM pretty religiously, which is my AM.

Emily Eavis, Glastonbury organiser

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I never got into The Archers, I have heard that it's very good and totally addictive, but I didn't grow up with it, and I associate it with other people's parents listening to it, rather than my own. Maybe it's because we're a farming family, and I have a notion that it appeals to city people, though I don't know how true that is.

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I love Radio 4 and wake up with the Today Programme and then Woman's Hour.

Interviews by By Genevieve Roberts and Sarah Harris

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