Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Dear BBC, Why Oh Why...?

Having a moan about the BBC seems to be something of a national pastime. The corporation itself has long sought criticism, and praise, for its own output from TV viewers on Points of View (1961-71/79 to date). In this post I turn my attention to the radio equivalents.

Listeners to the BBC World Service were first invited to send in their letters to Hugh Tattersall when Letterbox was launched in 1965. By 1974 former The World This Weekend and You and Yours reporter Margaret Howard was welcoming the correspondence. The Letterbox theme (Handel?) and Margaret's warm voice became familiar to listeners worldwide for just over a decade. When World Service bosses cancelled Letterbox in April 1986 the programme's correspondents were far from happy. "It's our forum"  and we're "one big family of world-wide listeners" they protested.

Here is that final edition of Letterbox from 25 April 1986. The Radio iPlayer has four editions from the archive available to listen to again.

In the event the World Service did bring back a listeners' correspondence show almost a year later. In May 1987 the legendary Paddy Feeny was in the hot seat for Write On. Shorter, snappier and often calling BBC producers and bosses to account the programme continued with Dilly Barlow and others until 2006.

The World Service website has this second edition with Paddy from 13 May 1987.

In 23 March 2006 Write On was itself given the chop to be replaced by Over to You, which continues to this day. The last edition of Write On, presented by Penny Vine, is also online here.

The earliest available edition of Over to You - by now well and truly in the social media age, there's no mention of writing in - is from 20 April 2006. The presenter is Rajan Datar.

On the domestic side BBC Radio 4 has been airing listener's grievances on Feedback since 1979 but before that was Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells - a title that surely smacked of the Home Counties, you could almost hear Middle England dipping their nibs. Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells ran for nine months between February and November 1978 with the network controller Ian McIntyre hoping that fierce criticism "might have the tonic effect on complacent producers." The programme was dropped among accusations that presenter Derek Robinson betrayed too much "crusading egomania."

This edition, kindly sent to me by Richard Tucker, dates from Sunday 29 October 1978 and aims its sights on A Word in Edgeways, Any Questions? Radio 3 music policy and the "personality cult" of news presenters, with Peter Woon, head of news and current affairs, answering the criticisms.

The following year Feedback offered listeners the opportunity to send in their bouquets and brickbats though the programme aimed "as much to inform the audience about broadcasting matters as to provide an opportunity for airing criticism".  

Regular Feedback presenters have included Tom Vernon, Colin Semper, Susan Marling, Chris Dunkley and the present incumbent Roger Bolton.

Rewind to 10 March 1985 for this edition of Feedback with Colin Semper. Up for consideration are such minutiae as the use of "what" and Susan Rae's accent to the "blasphemy" of The Wordmiths at Gorsemere and that perennial issue of the licence fee.  

1 comment:

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Thank you for this post! I have many happy memories of hearing Margaret Howard and Paddy Feeny, among others, as the announcers on the very programs you discuss here via the old BBC World Service (on shortwave by way of the Caribbean Relay Station in Antigua. . . 5975kHz in the evenings and 9410kHz in the mornings I think it was) before funding cuts in the late 1990s and 2000s began ruining what was a very unique service. BBC Radio 4 online fills much of the void now, but it's not quite the same thing really.

Best Regards,

Stokes (Michigan, USA)

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