Red letter day at the BBC as Forgan spreads the word

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The Independent Online
THERE IS a changing of the guard at the BBC today. Liz Forgan is marking her new role as managing director of BBC Radio with a jolly but odd letter to all her new staff.

The ex-director of programmes for Channel 4 and former Guardian women's editor has clearly decided to break with the pompous rhetoric - known as Beebspeak - exercised by its senior executives, from John Birt, director- general, downwards. But the tone of her breathless letter is also causing merriment, and even resentment, especially when she says in one key sentence: 'I've been listening like crazy for the past few weeks and I am simply knocked out by the treasure house of interest, revelation and pleasure you are putting out.'

Her critics are saying she sounds amateurish, as if listening to the radio is a new activity.

The letter from broadcasting's most powerful woman, who will be in charge of the BBC's five national networks, reads: 'Dear Network Radio, why does everyone I know in telly now creep out of the woodwork and confess that secretly it's radio they really love?

'Why does every letter from a listener start 'hands off . . .' and enclose 10,000 signatures?

'What kind of a medium is this that strikes so deep into the human psyche? I reckon my first job is to start understanding the answers to the above and I hope that you, who know them, will help me to do so.

'We are all in an exciting frenzy of change and reorganisat ion and we've got a mammoth job to do to present ourselves to the world lean, fit and sparkling as befits those asking for royal charters and billion-pound licence fees.

'It will be bumpy now and again. All change carries with it some grief and breakages along the road but the trick is going to be to keep our eyes on the prize all the way through the process however many pages of management babble I churn out . . .

'Please treat my office like Waterloo Station. I'll try to see that the refreshment facilities are better but stop in on your way and talk to me about what you think. My new phrase from Bill Clinton's campaign is that I don't want to be an 'in box' manager. See you Monday, Liz.'

Miss Forgan, who has moved to the BBC in a less powerful position than had been anticipated, has been refusing all comment since her appointment last month. One of her key tasks is to settle the question most annoying an influential sector of her audience - that of where the BBC is to put its 24-hour news service. The campaign to save Radio 4 on long wave is ever-vigilant, with offshoots on the Continent.

The belief of Miss Forgan's former colleagues at Channel 4 is that she will be promoted, perhaps to director of programmes, in due course. But she will also institute, with Alan Yentob, acting controller of BBC 1 and controller of BBC 2, a year-long review of what programmes should be on both its television and radio networks. This influential task may well be the springboard to another job overseeing output.

Channel 4 sources are also saying privately that the BBC has paid to release her from the 'golden handcuffs' agreement that she signed nearly two years ago.