So farewell, then, Mark Thompson

Yes, Mark Thompson has announced that he is stepping down as Director General of the BBC.

That news is a fantastic birthday present.

Just a few weeks ago, he admitted that the BBC had got it wrong on women, “that the broadcaster does not have enough older female newsreaders and presenters“.

No. I’d say he‘s got it wrong. After all, who’s in charge?

And I’d say he’s got it wrong in so many other ways too.

He totally underestimated the popularity of BBC local radio. The BBC Trust has forced you to reconsider making huge cuts to local radio which would result in a much less local service. Making us wonder, what’s the point of having local radio at all?

Before that, he wanted to shut down BBC 6 Music. He thought it was just another pop station. But the great British public stood up and told the BBC Trust what the pioneer DAB digital radio station means to them. So (until the next useless out of touch DG comes along) 6 Music has been saved.

Great to see Broadcasting House being refurbished of course, but why was it so over-budget? Who’s in charge? That’s my licence money he’s been wasting.

This big move to Salford: I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision. London is the nation’s capital, an eighth of the population lives within striking distance. It’s the cultural centre of the nation, whether you like it or not.

Selling off the iconic Television Centre. I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision too. In the same way they now regret erasing all those Doctor Who tapes. Because we need more empty office blocks in London. If this building is no longer needed for producing programmes, surely it can be turned into a money-making tourist attraction? Decades of history available, radio,  TV, film, documentaries, technology, props: it would appeal to everyone.

But I can’t resist this opportunity to recall the first time I became aware of Thompson’s existence, back in 1999. The BBC radio station for London, GLR, was threatened with closure. The campaign to save the station ultimately failed but Mark Thompson’s true colours came to the fore:

IN THE light of the BBC’s recent “Train Week”,
viewers and listeners may be interested to hear the
unexpurgated opinions of Mark Thompson, the
corporation’s grandly titled director of nations
and regions, towards rail safety.
Thompson aired his views during a recent staff
meeting at Greater London Radio – which, unhappily
for him, was secretly recorded. The main topics on
the agenda were the proposed reduction of music on
GLR, and Thompson’s Guardian article criticising the
station for playing “pop” music on the day of the
Paddington train crash. Also on the panel was Jane
Mote, head of London and south-east regions…

GLR staff member: “If you turned on GLR in five
years’ time, what would you want to hear?”
Jane Mote: “Mark’s not going to give you a schedule
now because there isn’t a schedule.”
Mark Thompson: “I could do, I could do.”
JM: “No, please! [Thompson laughs.] Paddington
train crash!”
MT: “YES, lots of train crashes please!” (MT carries
an laughing.)

Later in the meeting, Thompson returned to the
subject.
JM: “I think music is an expression of cultural life in
London and therefore it has an important role to play
and…”
MT: “I just want to hear about train crashes.”
JM: “…and Mark just wants death and gloom.”

Thompson seemed to find this all vastly amusing,
apparently regarding the Paddington disaster as
nothing more than a way of jacking up the ratings for
extended news coverage. But he was rather less
amused when staff challenged him about the
Grauniad article in which he revealed that he had “hit
the roof” when he heard a pop song on GLR on the
morning of the crash.
The song in question, Mambo No 5, was played
on Kiss FM at 8.31 that morning and on Capital
Radio at 9.01am – but it wasn’t played on GLR at all
that day, not least because GLR was too busy
providing, er, extended coverage of the disaster. It
transpired that Thompson is so incompetent he hadn’t
even tuned his radio to the correct station!

That’s from Private Eye No 993 Friday 14 January 2000.

Mark Thompson will not be missed.

But on a more positive note, what else did I get for my birthday? Well, a couple of CDs related to radio shows that I like. What a lovely surprise!

The Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary Album

and

World Routes on the Road

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Solar flares and other phenomena

A few interesting but unrelated news items that caught my eye today.

If your radio signal cuts out, it may be due to solar flares. this may also apply to TV and phone signals.

Solar flares? They might happen, but you won’t see it – dailypress.com.

BBC Radio 4 are listening to us all with a view to making a new series documenting our every day conversations. Now this could be a really interesting idea, or it could be the radio equivalent of TV’s Big Brother. I’ll give it a listen when it starts, not least because it’s being hosted by the wonderful Fi Glover.

Radio 4 to record and broadcast thousands of conversations across UK – The Guardian

Gary Crowley is to join Amazing Radio. I usually hear him on BBC London although does trun op on 6 Music from time to time. He was also on GLR back in the day (that’s one of his catchphrases by the way) bit he left to be amongst the first at Xfm.

Amazing Radio is a digital station which broadcasts music from new, up and coming artistes, as suggested n=by the audience in many cases.

Gary Crowley joins Amazing Radio line-up – Radio Today

Listen to Amazing Radio here.

And finally: I’ve mentioned before, 6 Music is celebrating its 10th birthday. With that in mind, watch this:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/emp/external/player.swf

Sian Williams to join Saturday Live

I’ve seen Sian Williams present the BBC 1 Breakfast Show a few times over the years, but I’ve never been a regular viewer. If I’m up at that time, the radio will usually be on instead. And in any case, most days I’m at work while all this breakfast TV is taking place.

But Sian has decided not to move to Salford with her co-presenter Bill Turnbull and the rest of the team.

Instead, she will return to Radio 4 to co-present Saturday Live with the Rev Richard Coles. I’ve been a fan of the programme since it started a few years ago, originally presented by the delightful Fi Glover. I try to listen live each week, but I work five Saturdays out of six, so it’s quite difficult.

I was able to listen using the FM radio on my mobile phone, using the headset which also acted as the antenna. This worked well, until one day at work, a mouse decided to eat my headset. It was in several pieces, and proved to be impossible to replace, unless I obtained a whole new phone.

As a backup, my digital TV recorder is set up to record Saturday Live every week, and it’s 90% reliable.

I do have a new phone now, but when I’m at work, I tend to listen to it via the loudspeaker rather than the headset. The sound quality is nowhere near perfect, of course, but when there’s traffic in the background, and other extraneous noise, it doesn’t really matter. Plus, of course, not wearing a headset, it’s much easier to talk to people.

But I digress. this is a major news item about Saturday Live acquiring a new presenter, and being extended:

BBC News – Sian Williams to rejoin Radio 4 from BBC Breakfast.

 

Fire alarm at MediaCity

For the third or fourth time, fire alarms were set off in the BBC’s new HQ outside London, the presumably state-of-the-art and definitely very expensive MediaCity in Salford.

There was of course no fire and nobody was hurt, so we can have a bit of a laugh about Nicky Campbell being cut off again. But to play the same ’emergency interview’ shows a lack of imagination!

Fire alarm at MediaCity forces BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio Manchester off air | Manchester Evening News – menmedia.co.uk.

Online sales of UK radio shows possible

This is interesting. If radio programmes can be sold easily to other broadcasters world-wide, then we’ll all benefit.

BBC 4 Extra broadcasts drama and comedy from fifty years ago right up to date. It’s mostly old BBC material, but a notable exception was a series of programmes starring Kenny Everett, from his days at Capital Radio in London.

I’m sure there would be a lot of support for the BBC acquiring drama from the USA, Australia and New Zealand, for instance, whether current or vintage (is that the right word?).

And the Beeb can maybe make some money by selling their own product too.

But, as I’ve said before, there are not enough hours in the day to listen to everything I want to hear already…

The Stage / News / Online sales of UK radio shows on the cards.