Matthew Bell: Rant & Rave (02/01/11)

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The Independent Online


I don't normally resent my friends their achievements. Hats off, I say, as they get pay rises, or promotions, or, increasingly, married. For one of my closest companions, 2010 was a triumph, a stream of prizes and praise. So why am I so cross? Because that friend is Radio 3. Now, I know it's a bit weird to be mates with a frequency, but we've been going to bed together for over 20 years. So I wish I had cheered when Radio 3 was named UK Station of the Year. I wanted to whoop when Rajar figures showed a rise in audience numbers. But I couldn't. Because, just as when my grandmother got Alzheimer's, I've been forced to accept my beloved friend isn't there any more. Radio 3 has become a saccharine stream of bite-sized morsels, terrified of appearing highbrow.

If ever you wanted to know what's wrong with the BBC, it's the cringing decline of Radio 3. Here was a station free from commercial pressures, charged with producing an intelligent and original public service. The audience would never be huge, but the standards would be high. Instead, we get a classical music chart, a fad Classic FM thought of over 10 years ago. Who cares if Bach has sold better than Brahms this week?

Gone is the confidence that meant playing whole symphonies for breakfast. Gone is the authority that came of having expert presenters, not Katie Derham who, nice though she is, admits she's no Grove Dictionary.

Mercifully, 2011 has begun on a happier note. We're two days into a 12-day Mozart marathon. That's the kind of innovative and bold programming the BBC is for. More of that, and maybe we can be friends again.


A study of British personality traits claims men score highly on cynicism, suspicion, aloofness and emotional coldness. Women, meanwhile, are excitable, moody, and mercurial. The good news is that women fancy Machiavellian men, as they apparently equate nastiness with masculinity, and the ability to father healthy children. I'm glad psychologists have spent 10 years interviewing 20,000 men and women to reach these conclusions. I now know it's OK to be aloof and emotionally cold, and, more importantly, to treat psychologists with the cynicism and suspicion they deserve.