David Lister: Who will fight for the arts on ITV?

Share
Related Topics

ITV chiefs must be bracing themselves. At the South Bank Show Awards this week. Melvyn Bragg promised guests that the televised highlights of the ceremony to be broadcast tomorrow would be uncensored.

As everyone who got near a microphone took the opportunity to accuse ITV of philistinism for axeing The South Bank Show, it could make pretty embarrassing viewing. It was particularly interesting that the Prince of Wales in a pre-recorded video to the gathering slammed ITV's decision, saying: "Oblivion is not the place for the arts, and so I cannot say I am encouraged as mainstream television abandons such a unique and special commitment." One may or may not care what Prince Charles says, but it's extremely rare for a senior member of the Royal Family to make such an attack on a mainstream TV channel, and unique I would suggest for that attack to be for its neglect of the arts.

ITV should be ashamed of its treatment of its flagship programme. Its executives have said that other arts strands will replace The South Bank Show. I shall certainly be watching the next season schedules announcement to see precisely what they have in mind.

But if ITV now seems a lost cause on serious arts programming, I can't say that I always get a warm glow from the approach of the BBC or Channel 4. I recently attended a national State of the Arts conference, and one of the sessions had on the panel Channel 4's director of television Kevin Lygo, and the new BBC arts editor Will Gompertz. It was a phrase of Mr Lygo's that stuck in my mind. He said how he preferred to put on a programme about the making of an opera to an opera itself, as an opera would hardly get any viewers. And there I was thinking it was the job of television arts to lead taste as well as to follow it.

Will Gompertz, formerly head of communications at the Tate, is new to television, and there is much for him to do. Putting some plays back on the BBC would be a good start. Classic drama has all but disappeared. His was an unexpected appointment, but I was encouraged, well, certainly intrigued, when I asked him about the frequent confusion of arts and celebrity. He answered that it had struck him that when Jade Goody died the news bulletins were full of the story, but Pina Bausch, the distinguished choreographer, had died at the same time and barely got a mention. He would have liked to see that sort of news judgement reversed. That's quite an answer from the man who will actually be one of those in charge of what arts coverage goes on the main news bulletins.

"The former Big Brother star Jade Goody died yesterday, but first over to our special correspondent in Germany for the latest on the sad death of Pina Bausch." Yes, I can almost picture it. Almost.

ITV's desperately bad decision over The South Bank Show and the opprobrium it has attracted is the most extreme example of the confusion that television chiefs have over what sort of profile to give the arts, but ITV is not alone in its confusion. Good luck to Gompertz but I suspect his dream of a culture-heavy Six O'Clock News will occur on the same day that Peter Fincham resurrects The South Bank Show, and Kevin Lygo broadcasts the Ring cycle.

International man of mystery

David Bowie is carving out a late career as the great enigma of rock. His only publicity so far for a new album of his 2004 tour is a short, cryptic Q&A in the NME. Few people are sure when he will next tour or make an album.

There was, though, an interesting moment in an accompanying NME article when the journalist asked at a New York recording studio about a rumour that Bowie had been recording there. The owner replied that he was "not at liberty to say whether or not David Bowie or Peter Murphy are working at my studio". A strange answer as the reporter had never mentioned Murphy, frontman with 1980s band Bauhaus. Oops, as they say.

I got to know David more than 10 years ago when he asked me to write the catalogue essay for his first major art exhibition in London. He will love leading his pursuers up blind alleys, while cementing his role as music's enigma.

Worthy winner in an odd contest

Christopher Reid was a deserving winner this week of the Costa Book of the Year for his volume of poetry The Scattering. The poems were written as a tribute to his dead wife, with lines such as "Nonplussed, but not distraught/I listened to her undress,/ then sidle along the far side/of our bed and lift the covers./Of course, I'd forgotten she'd died."

But however worthy the winner is, I feel that the Book of the Year is a mighty odd concept. Comparing a novel, a volume of poetry, a biography and a children's story makes no real sense, even if they do all come between covers and are sold in bookshops.

One might as well have a Stoppard play slug it out with a pantomime for play of the year just because they both happen to take place on a stage. The Book of the Year award is fun and glamorous as an occasion. It throws up some highly readable works. But it's faintly absurd.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us