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The 2009 Reith Lectures

Mark Damazer Mark Damazer 12:51, Friday, 6 February 2009

We've just announced who will be this year's Reith lecturer. It will be Professor Michael Sandel from Harvard. He is a political philosopher--but his work ranges wider than that label suggests. He has written about aspects of behavioural psychology, genetics and much more. The lectures will be broadcast in June.

Choosing the Reith lecturer is one of the perks of the job and I enjoy the debates that I have with some very senior R4 colleagues about who we should ask. But it's a demanding jigsaw puzzle. We look for someone who is distinguished, with a good broadcasting voice, with something new to say--preferably about something that resonates at the time the lectures are broadcast. And if that were not enough--we would like the lectures to have lasting value. As Daniel Barenboim said in 2006, (when he was the Reith lecturer) “it's a tough gig.”

His lectures still give me goosebumps. In part because he was initially reluctant to write them--but also because he unleashed a dazzling display of charm, wit and humanity that had me roaring him on--while biting my fingernails.

And I have raised the Reith stakes by moving the transmission time of the lectures to the peak morning schedule. They had previously been broadcast in the evenings. So every year I fret about it. Fingers crossed.

Which was your favourite Reith lecturer and why? Leave me a comment below.

A Reith Lectures chronology from Wikipedia.
Seven of the most important lecturers from the BBC's archives.
Some other lectures by Michael Sandel from the archives of Fora.tv.
The BBC Press Office's announcement.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am not used to blogs, so am I right in deducing that there have been no comments yet on the Radio 4 blog from members of the public?

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree completely re. Barenboim. I had to stop the car and pull in to listen when he was on.

    Having just read that wikipedia link to this years lecturer, I have to say I'm none the wiser as to what exactly he believes or could contribute.

    Would it not have been better , this year, to get someone with a Darwinist background or someone who would be prepared to give and open and honest account of how we got into the current financial mess?

    But well done in the change of timeslot - hope it goes well.

  • Comment number 3.

    @Blanchesparks Yes, you're right. The blog is brand new so your comment was the first - by about eight hours. Welcome!

    Steve Bowbrick, Editor, Radio 4 Blog

  • Comment number 4.

    Good morning, Steve. Anna, the BBC Radio 4 message board host, has put a link to this blog on 'The Choice is Yours' message board, so this is how I have found it.


    I always look forward to the Reith Lectures, and I hope that Michael Sander will turn out to be an inspired choice. Daniel Barenboim raised a lot of interest on BBC Radio 3, because of his obvious interest in classical music. Nevertheless, I felt that some of his points could have been better thought through.

    It can be helpful to have a bit of editorial engagement online, if only to propel serious discussion and thought. I hope that Michael Sander has something interesting to say. All the best, c.


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