Monday 13 July 2009, 19:19
Feedback is one of the most important programmes on Radio 4 - and in some ways the whole of the BBC. For many years it has been the only programme on a mainstream network - TV or Radio - that has engaged consistenly and rigorously with complaints. Points Of View on television does a bit of that - but it is shorter and less stringent. The BBC News Channel has now set up a serious programme to examine discontents. Feedback is done by an independent company (City Broadcasting) in order that there should be some distance between us (the BBC decision makers) and the production team who make it.
I have appeared on Feedback for many years - when I was in BBC News and now as Controller of Radio 4. I did so last week - to answer questions from a panel of Radio 4 listeners who were far from completely happy. We explored our coverage of America, Thought for The Day, Drama - and whether we take listeners' opinions seriously enough.
It is a tough programme to do. Roger Bolton has teeth and bares them - but people like me are given enough time to explain ourselves as best we can. I hope that is well enough. I am biased but I think the BBC editors etc. who come on do take the whole thing seriously.
There's always been a little - almost deliberate - uncertainty about how much the programme should focus on Radio 4 and how much on other BBC radio stations - and even, occasionally, wider BBC concerns. It is mostly about Radio 4 - but when you get a big kerfuffle - think Ross/Brand - Feedback becomes an important arena for debate, explanation and confession.
Some issues get 'done' repeatedly - trails, accents, comedy, the Today programme interviewing style etc. I know that the production team are always looking for new (sic) themes to explore - so feel free to take up the offer. We (BBC employees) may not all regard being on Feedback as the single most enjoyable part of our lives - but it is an essential part of what we do - and, as it happens, I mostly rather do enjoy it! Mostly...
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