The Listening Project

Walking along the road, or travelling on a bus or train, you sometimes hear the most bizarre conversations taking place. You’re interested but don’t want them to see you’re eavesdropping. Well, that’s all about to change, as this fascinating new project begins any day now.

‘The Listening Project’ is a joint enterprise between the BBC and the British Library. they want our conversations recorded. BBC local radio is involved and the various local radio stations will broadcast some of these items. BBC Radio 4 will, presumably, broadcast the best and most interesting from all over the country.

The Listening Project website gives more details, including some tips on how to record your conversation, should you want to participate. Personally, I’d probably clam up as soon as you turn the microphone on, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I hope it’s not just extroverts and those with a great level of self confidence who take part.

The first programme will be on Radio 4 on Friday 30th March at 12:52.

The wonderful Fi Glover spoke about the project on Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show last week, and will be introducing the Radio 4 programmes.

Ooh, look, here’s Fi.

The Listening Project

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

BBC set for U-turn over local radio cuts after outcry from listeners and MPs | Media | The Guardian

Well, this is good news. It is becoming a bit boring, though, to be honest. Every now and then, the BBC, for whatever reason, decides it has to cut back on its radio stations. This time, it’s the whole of the BBC local radio network, some 40 stations. Last year it was BBC 6 Music, the DAB digital station.

And many years ago, the ‘Save GLR Campaign’ managed to increase the audience figures for the ‘local’ station for London at a time when its own publicity machine was to all intents and purposes non-existent.

‘Delivering Quality First’ is the heading under which the BBC is making cuts to many of its services. One of the many arguments against cutting back on the local radio services is: how come such gems as BBC 3’s ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’ is still going?

The BBC should be making and broadcasting programmes, on TV as well as on radio, that the commercial sector wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole. It should not be copying ITV’s output, it should be innovating. People are quite rightly cross that the BBC is going to start showing ‘The Voice’ which is a copy of ITV’s ‘The X Factor’, and if stories are to be believed, its judges, possibly including one Kylie Minogue will be paid millions of pounds – money which would easily keep the threatened local radio stations going for several months.

I’m not the biggest fan of BBC London, apart from those bits still left over from its predecessor, the aforementioned GLR, but it too has its own loyal following. And I’m sure the same can be said for the other local radio stations.

BBC set for U-turn over local radio cuts after outcry from listeners and MPs | Media | The Guardian.

As some of the comments make clear, the Director General Mark Thompson doesn’t come out of this well. He is so out of touch with the BBC’s audience, he really shouldn’t be in that position.