Monday, 18 February 2008

"A great philosopher once wrote..."

OK – ‘Soapbox’ time.

I never make a real point of reading the ‘Radio Review’ columns that most broadsheet papers in the UK run… but I occasionally stumble across one (mainly due to carelessness) when trying to find, in the listings, the broadcast time that a great documentary is on BBC Four! (Honest!)

So yesterday, when I accidentally cast my eyes across Paul Donovan’s column in The Sunday Times, I thought I’d give it a go. After all it had been a tumultuous week in UK radio, with GCap’s DAB announcement still sending ripples of excitement through the broadsheets. So I imagined the Sunday Times radio commentator would be begging the editor for more space than his usual 600 word allowance to wax lyrical about DAB / Jazz music on radio / classic rock / listener choice…. you name it!!

Sure enough, the first 3 lines alluded to the planned closure of Planet Rock and The Jazz and the tweaking of the Classic FM schedule… but then the esteemed Paul Donovan seemed somewhat determined to crowbar in a story he had planned to write anyway about BBC Radio 1 and Judge Jules, and got to it with the awkwardness of a 1st Year GCSE English student.

Not only did he fail to give any musings on the demise of 2 stations enjoyed by almost a million listeners between them, but he then forced on the readers what I can only describe as a pompous, haughty, lecturing, ostentatious, vindictive and out of touch ‘personal viewpoint’.

You really need to read it to believe it, but the thrust of it was that BBC Radio 1’s Judge Jules made an off the cuff remark buried deep within ones of his links that went…

“The last time I heard that, I was chewing my face off in a field in the early Nineties.”

This remark led to our great radio reviewer using his column to launch into a massive ‘anti-ecstasy’ rant quoting all sorts of statistics and basically suggesting that Jules was a drug-fuelled fiend and practically gives away Ecstasy tablets on his show! (OK – He doesn’t suggest that at all, but I think you can tell he’s not a fan of Jules!)

I think what annoyed me most, was the phrase…

“He should know better”

I mean… come on. Please. I wanted to read a review about radio or some sort of comment on the state of the industry this week, not get ‘Victorian Dad’ lecturing me that taking drugs is bad. And as if to illustrate the point further, he suggests that one of the reasons that Jules should know better is… wait for it… that he’s related to the celebrity chef Rick Stein. Oh dear… oh dear!
I thought the Sunday Times was better than this.

Of course, Paul Donovan contacted Radio 1 to ‘grass Jules up’ for being a despicable peddler of filth. (I suspect that no-one else was too bothered about this remark and I can’t see the Duty Log running out of space at that time). Being the BBC, they naturally said that the comment was “inappropriate.” I’m sure the Radio 1 Press Office were stifling their laughter during the phone call!

Our anachronistic columnist was seemingly delighted at this supposed ‘telling off’ and ended his piece with the classic lines…
“Quite right too. Next time, he should get the chop”

It sounded more like The Daily Mail with every word. I think that perhaps the author also has an issue with the licence fee being used for Radio 1 to play dance music.

“What the station needs to do now is consider the acceptability of its 12-hour dance-music marathon, which runs from 7pm on Friday to 7am on Saturday. It offers “piping-hot tunes”, “hot mixes” and “remixes”, the sort of hypnotic music that people listen to when they go clubbing.”

Bizarre. Perhaps dance music doesn’t live up to his Reithein interpretation of “Entertainment”.
I’m a pretty mild-mannered radio consultant and not really prone to outbursts of this nature (most of the time!) but this kind of disconnected attitude means that when people under 65 do actually read Paul Donovan’s column, they’ll be put off for life.
There’s a documentary on BBC Radio 4 tomorrow where Gyles Brandreth celebrates the 100th Birthday of the character ‘Billy Bunter’. Much more up your street I think Mr. Donovan! Look forward to not reading the review next week.

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