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The unique Charlie Gillett

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Rajan Datar | 16:55 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

This week's Over To You is dominated by your reactions to the death of the unique World Service broadcaster, Charlie Gillett. As your comments to us show, Charlie held a special place in the hearts of music lovers all over the world during the ten years he presented the show "World of Music".

Charlie enjoyed an illustrious career as a writer, musicologist, record label owner and DJ. In many ways he was the last man standing, as the World Service drifted away from music broadcasting towards a more speech-oriented diet. Mr Gillett and his show, though, were indispensable.

I have special personal reason to be grateful to Charlie.

Like many bands and artists around the globe, I once submitted a track from my group's new album, a vinyl LP (yes it was that far back!) to Charlie when he presented a previous BBC show - hoping against hope he would play a track from it. Let me assure you that nothing matches the pleasure of hearing those silky rich tones introducing your song on the radio!

Imagine my delight when I met him shortly after, and then again a few more times over the years - most recently, last spring when I went to his house in South London to interview him for Over To You.

I was met by a gentle man with his trademark shock of grey hair, and taken downstairs to a large room crammed with vinyl, cds and various world music bric a brac. As ever he was courteous to a fault, generous with his time, curious about others and passionate about the music he loved.

Life before the internet

But there are other things in this week's programme. We've covered several aspects of the Superpower season recently on Over To You, and this week we've changed the perspective a bit, in response to an email from Chegun Ayadi, a listener in Nigeria who asked how the internet has changed the workings of the BBC.

Our reporter Penny Vine has been investigating, and she came up with some interesting findings - not least the picture of what life was like before the internet. She talked, among others, to one of the senior newsroom editors, Nigel Margerison, and to former North America editor, Justin Webb, both of whom reminisced about life before the internet, as you can hear in her report.

Nigel described a noisy newsroom full of typewriters, teleprinters and masses of paper news copy. For Justin it was a memory of recording everything on to tape, which was then hard to transmit back to London.

In contrast was the picture of the present and the vision of the future put forward by producer Simon Pitts. His view is that broadcasters are more accountable now that they don't just make radio programmes - a challenging enough task in its own right. But these days of course they also write blogs, provide website content, update facebook pages and so on and so on.

Simon has just overseen the My World project part of the Superpower season. Members of the audience were asked to send in short films which encapsulated their world.

Simon feels that in future, as broadcasters invite their audiences to supply stories like this, organisations such as the BBC could become curators as much as originators of material. Plenty of food for thought here - I wonder what you feel about it?

Rajan Datar is the Presenter, Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and
its programmes. It airs at 10:40 and 23:40 every Saturday, and at 
02:40 on Sunday (GMT). 


  • Comment number 1.

    is it possible to have about 10 past programs of charlie gillett on a podcast to download for all of his fans who miss him a lot? it would be a good tribute and I am sure many of the artistes and listeners would love it...I am even happy to pay for the cost or to a charity to get this ..rajan - would you mindtalking about this to some of your friends at the bbc, mark and bidisha etc - i am sure there is some momentum on this idea...thanks a lot

  • Comment number 2.

    Replacing Charlie... Its always difficult to "replace" a voice so ingrained and important to the BBC lineup. Mary Ann Kennedy has my vote!
    She has that special insight needed to do this kind of show, She can be serious, yet not too serious, she is knowledgeable and fun to listen to.

    Check out "World On 3" Radio 3 and "Global Gathering" Radio Scotland to
    see what I mean. She has that same kind of "spirit" that Charlie had and I'd like to see that continue.

  • Comment number 3.

    Not only do I strongly agree with the Dutch listener that Charlie should be replaced by someone else doing a similar job there. But I also think that a program like that could offer a great possibility to just relax, if one desires to. Currently, the only music program available on the World Service is Top Of The Pops where most of the music is highly energetic, very fast, and sometimes it sounds to me quite aggressive. But that's like if you were eating only salty food for all the time. Sooner or later, you would get annoyed and take, for example, something sweet, for a change. But if you were eating only sweet things, you would get annoyed as well. There DOES need to be some alternation -- and this is just what a program of this kind may happily offer.
    It's similar to what one listener said on Over To You some time ago -- that he felt there was too many negative news stories and too few positive news stories in the WS news programmes. It's just the same question that needs answering. Where do we find some kind of alternation?

    Petr Pařízek
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]the Czech Republic


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