The shock of the newish

Share
Related Topics
It seems I can't turn my back for five minutes without them getting up to some mischief. No sooner were the bucket and spade packed than the rumours began to fly - The Archers to be relocated to a council estate outside Dudley, Melvyn Bragg to be publicly lobotomised, Woman's Hour to be turned over to letters from Penthouse readers' wives. It cast a shadow over the entire holiday, knowing that as soon as I returned I would have to call James Boyle into my study and subject him to rough handling about the schedules.

But, as we now know, the changes to Radio 4 weren't nearly as traumatic as anybody expected. This is partly a tribute to Mr Boyle's astute planning - changes announced well in advance, with abundant provision of free help-lines and bereavement counselling between now and next April. But it must come, too, from a widespread recognition that large swathes of Radio 4's present output have nothing to recommend them but familiarity. No one can be much aggrieved at the disappearance of Weekending, Kaleidoscope, Sport on 4, Breakaway or The Afternoon Shift - all of them afflicted by some permutation of drift, fatigue and self-indulgence (though on those grounds you have to wonder why Ned Sherrin survived the purge, unless it's the high cost of silver bullets).

There are only three real reservations about Boyle's proposals. The first is the slashing of Start the Week to half an hour - "more focused" says the publicity, missing the essential point that it's the range of ideas which makes it such a fine programme. The second is the abolition of drama over an hour long - listeners may well have short attention spans, but a public broadcasting system should take that as a challenge, not a limitation. The third is that Radio 4 is going to need a lot of new programmes, and it's hard to see where the new talent is going to come from in a demoralised, redundancy-hit BBC.

On the whole, though, it's hard to see why young Boyle was at such pains to avoid my personal wrath. Of course, he may not have been thinking of me at all - though in that case, why was my invitation to the press conference announcing the new schedules delivered two hours after the conference had begun? But a tendency to see the world in purely egocentric terms is a journalistic hazard - which brings us to Fergal Keane.

After Letter to Daniel, his banal and inexplicably popular outpourings to his newborn son, wags at Broadcasting House suggested that his next project would be Notes to My Milkman. At his best, he is unquestionably very, very good; but at his worst - as this week, kicking off a new series of the foreign correspondents' forum Points of View (Radio 4, Wednesday) - he can be regrettably self-romanticising and painfully Literary.

Here, we got some uncritical gush about his own desire to pursue truth and justice and stand up for the little man (as opposed, you gathered, to most other foreign correspondents). Then, a little later, we heard him at a mass grave in Rwanda, declaring: "It is as if all the good and life in the atmosphere had been sucked out and replaced with the stench of evil." Perhaps one should be impressed by the ability to stand back from terrible events that this second-rate poetry suggests; but it also suggests a propensity to interpose himself between those events and the listener, an urge to editorialise when that's the last thing needed. Facts find their own voice; it's that voice we ought to hear, not the reporter's.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mechanical Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A key client in the East Midlands are re...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

Supply Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply TeachersWould you l...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: fathers looking after children, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice