A couple of my friends took a pre-Christmas break in the sun. They went to Cape Verde, and by all accounts it was very nice indeed. I can’t help thinking that it must have been also quite nice for Radio 4’s Evan Davies who was there courtesy of the station’s now-traditional policy of bringing in Guest Editors to the Today programme.
Evan was clearly not just there on a freebie. His online report gives us an insight into the rational behind his visit:
“The assignment was at the behest of guest editor Mo Ibrahim who strongly feels that the Western media portrays Africa in a monotonously negative light. Could that really be true?”
Yet whilst I’m sure the Today programme – even under the BBC cuts – has the kind of budget to do this kind of thing, I can’t help wondering if Radio 4 might have just as well used one of their local reporters – via the World Service – to do the job? After all, the BBC will soon have the World Service to look after within the main Licence Fee. This might have been the perfect (off-peak, festive) opportunity to try a bit of BBC blue sky thinking.
- Evan Davies on assignment in Cape Verde
Doubtless if I’d suggested that to the Editor of the Today programme, I’d be accused of failing to understand the show’s ethos and purpose – and promptly told that it’s a great example of getting presenters out of the studio and into the real world.
All good stuff, I’m sure. Though when we did our own version of Guest Editors in Local Radio last year, our resources were somewhat limited. Nevertheless, we managed to produce some wonderfully insightful output featuring, for example, a soldier’s wife – who wanted to highlight the stories of military families over Christmas.
And it’s the kind of thing which Local Radio frequently does – programming just as good as network’s, at a fraction of the cost. Perhaps next year, Today’s Guest Editors should be told they have £100 and a radio car – let’s see what they come up with.
2012, of course, will be a year of realisation at the BBC, as the full extent of cuts come to the fore. In particular, the BBC Trust will be reporting back on proposals to cut Local Radio. There’s been much speculation – and now, a certain amount of consternation about the time it’s all taking. Some contributors to the BBC Local Radio Forum
fear that the delay might be an attempt to sweep the whole process under the radar.
Personally, I think it’s right that the Trust takes as long as it has to in analysing the hundreds or thousands of responses to its two public consultations. It’s also right that the members of the Trust take an appropriate break over the festive season and return to the issue in earnest in the New Year. Let’s hope that they don’t swallow the Christmas staff memo from the Director General Mark Thompson, who – in speaking about Delivering Quality First – said:
“most people think that (the proposals) are… well thought out.”
Happy New Year!