I’ve never quite understood why some people dismiss programmes they have neither heard nor seen. Perhaps the most memorable example in radio’s recent history was the furore over the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand affair, with the actual number of complainants who’d heard the original broadcast could probably be counted on your fingers.
What’s worse is when the dismissal is accompanied with misleading or untrue information, which has been the case this week in preparation for the new all-England BBC Local Radio show presented by Mark Forrest. This show will replace the existing 7-10pm shows on 39 BBC Local Stations across England and the Channel Islands. Some of those shows are being moved elsewhere in the schedules, some are being cut. Crucially, though, local or regional news or travel will continue as now, as will midweek sports commentaries.
But the way that some people are talking, you’d think it was the end of the world. Over at the self styled BBC Radio Forum a tweet read “BBC Local Radio will cease on 7/1/13”. After corrections from several people, including myself, a well respected lecturer in journalism and a local radio presenter, the Forum backtracked somewhat, explaining thar “tweets are automated” – apparently a defence for that misleading headline. When I challenged this, I was accused of acting with “faux authority”, whatever that means.
But that wasn’t enough. The next day the Forum published another thread entitled “BBC Gears Up For All England Show With Cheesy PR Masquerading as A Blog.”
Certainly no pre-judging there, then.
Fortunately, someone with less of an agenda on this is Richard Horsman, whose blog attempts to bring some balance to the debate. And hopefully I can add some more.
Some contributors to the Forum have said that the new show will be a “programme of repeats”. Untrue. Some local content may indeed be rebroadcast nationally (more of which in a moment). But that content will be used to generate new lines of discussion as part of the mix. Either way, it wouldn’t be a repeat to 38 of the stations involved. And, indeed, many stations already have a “best of” weekly show.
Some have questioned why stories from, say Merseyside, would be of any interest to those in Cornwall. To me, that smacks of a very inward looking view of life. Even one of the Forum’s founders, Tamsin “Tiger” Vincent, suggested that local programming could be maintained by, for example, broadcasting a compelling interview with a holocaust survivor. Is she saying that this would have no interest outside her local area?
Then there was criticism of the pilot shows, which have largely been broadcast in the small hours of the morning. People didn’t like the format, or the content. Well, the point of a pilot is to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s also to sort out the complex system of technical distribution.
Finally, there was a time honoured call that local radio should be local. Always. Well, for a couple of decades at least, most evening shows have been regional. Before that, stations often closed at 7pm. The alternative to the new evening show would be shared programmes within regions in the afternoons. Something which the unions,staff and listeners campaigned against and won.
They say everyone’s a critic. And in this online world, everyone can be. Constructive criticism, having established the facts, is fine. The Forum have backtracked some more now, saying that they were criticising the BBC’s publicity machine, not the show. And the show’s conception in the first place.
Clearly, I wish Mark and the team the best of luck tomorrow night. If there’s a glimmer of a positive review from a certain corner, I’ll eat my hat.