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Leaving Radio 4

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Mark Damazer Mark Damazer 08:44, Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Damazer pink shirt

I will be leaving a job I have loved in October. I will miss almost all of it. But I always felt that I should not do much more than seven years as Controller of Radio 4 and by October I will have had the best job in the BBC for six of those years. I did not want to run the risk of my ideas drying up, being insensate to the best ideas of the many people who make Radio 4 what it is or have anyone muse over a date for my departure. The job of Controller gives one person a very large amount of power and that needs to be disbursed with care. So I knew that I would one day have to hand over the reins before anything about Radio 4 became routine - but I very much wanted to leave bursting with enthusiasm and love for Radio 4 - and I am.

There was no other big job in broadcasting that appealed to me - and anyway I should not presume that anyone would have offered. I wanted a complete change and I have always had a profound respect and interest in academic life and academics. (Radio 4 after all is a platform for many academics and it manifestly needs their knowledge and goodwill). So I will be swapping the particular rituals of BBC life for the rather different ones of Oxford. I am well aware that it will be different - and exciting. Scholarship and curiosity help define who we are - and Oxford and St.Peter's are places of fantastic intellectual achievement and learning.

I hope very much that I have left Radio 4 in good shape for whoever is lucky enough to be asked to run it, and what will become Radio 4 extra (now Radio 7) if the Trust approves our plans - though in the end that is a judgement for you - the audience. I am acutely aware that not all of you, by any stretch of the imagination, will approve of everything that I have done. And there will be some of you who think I have got it mostly wrong - but when I listen to the programmes I am very often moved, excited, amused or thrilled by what I hear.

The editors, programme makers, schedulers, announcers, financial wizards and others who work to produce the programmes are devoted to their work and to the audience. I do not know that this is a unique phenomenon but it is one that is palpable in Radio 4. So to have been the beneficiary of their work and commitment has been a great privilege - and I shall miss their creativity, energy and companionship. It's been wonderful. I am not going for a while and in the few months that remain there is much to be done - though I shall try not to bind my successor with ideas that he/she may not want.

Throughout my life I have been grateful that Radio 4 exists - but that applies to the BBC too. For all its failings and frustrations the BBC is a noble idea and much of what it does - though inevitably not all - lives up to its aspirations. So I wish not only for a strong Radio 4 - but a strong BBC too. And I shall be a devoted listener.

Mark Damazer is Controller of BBC Radio 4

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Does this mean we can now have our Radio 4 "UK Theme" music back at the start of r4 transmission each day?

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm surprised, a little shocked, and filled with some dread, because your departure could presage a major pertubation in our little universe. Let us hope your successor will be as benign a dictator as you have been, and that Radio 4 will continue to be as curious and challenging as it has been under your tenure.

    And good luck with your new life in academia.

    Russ

  • Comment number 3.

    Radio 4 is a great institution - one of the essences of Britishness. But let us hope your successor has the guts to deal with the religious propagandists and stop the nonsensical and unequal sermonising which is "Thought for the Day".

  • Comment number 4.

    #1. At 10:17am on 13 Apr 2010, edwardjecle wrote:

    "Does this mean we can now have our Radio 4 "UK Theme" music back at the start of r4 transmission each day?"

    I hope not, never has there been such awful noise been created in the name of music...

  • Comment number 5.

    Farewell and good luck.

    Whoever the new controller is, please don't change anything. R4 is just fine as it is.

  • Comment number 6.

    I was disappointed you didn't repair any of the wreckage of the Boyle years - and after calling Home Truths "Maudlin" on air you then proceeded to replace it with something even more depressing! Saturday mornings used to be full of laughter and enjoyment. I hope someone restores Radio 4's sense of humour! Oh! and sacking Vanessa Whitburn and her cronies at The Archers would have cheered everyone up!

  • Comment number 7.

    As a long-standing campaigner for a no-religious voice on Thought for the Day I shall be glad to see the back of Damazer who was the biggest single obstacle to progress. When I heard he was going to St Peter's for a moment I thought it was to the other one until I remembered that he is a Jew not a Catholic!

  • Comment number 8.

    Now you're going, can we re-instate the R4 'UK Theme', start PM with a jingle and re-schedule Go For It! at children's bath-time on Sundays?

  • Comment number 9.

    Well, Mark, your messageboarders are asking for the the Radio 4 UK theme back please, which demonstrates what a conservative bunch they are?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio4/F2766774?thread=7434321

    I suggested (Message 9) that you commission a programme on how Radio 4 could represent Britain's changing identity in the twenty-first century, including a possible new theme tune. I can understand why Mark replaced the UK theme with a "pacy news briefing", but as Radio 4 demonstrably retains an interest in music, perhaps musicians could consider how to handle the nightly switchover from domestic to world service and back again.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio4/F2766774?thread=7434321&skip=0&show=20#p94857694

    As for everything else, well, on balance, I reckon that you have made Radio 4 even better, so congratulations!

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree with GC Davis. Mr Damazer's steadfast determination to continue to exclude valid contributions from the non-religious on Thought For The Day has left a heavy blot on his copybook, but what would the personal attack on him from the Christian lobby have been like had he acted otherwise?

    There are many positives and I include Americana, A History of the World and Drama among these. I have also found myself listening to many very good programmes on a variety of topics of late. Whenever I heard Mr Damazer speak he always sounded much more knowledgeable and articulate than Mark Thompson.

  • Comment number 11.

    Who ever follows, restore the station name to "The Home Service", ban all new comedy - want comedy, repeat the Goons, ITMA etc. - third make all announcers ware full DJs, and fourth do not restore that awful UK Theme. Now, considering that the first two are a near on certainty to be impossible, the third highly unlikely, the fourth should be a breeze...

    As for TFTD, rather than have the slot corrupted, I have yet to hear a non political atheist 'sermon' (I would be happy to be proved wrong), perhaps R4 should just drop TFTD entirely, perhaps networking (on both FM and LW) the Daily Service?

    Another though about that awful "UK Theme", surely, if (I would have preferred to say when...) R4 goes 24hrs rather than patching into the World Service, it's going to be difficult to place the National Anthem never mind a reprieved UK Theme?

  • Comment number 12.

    Hold on a moment; this is not the time or place to drag up debates about TFTD or the UK theme. However passionately such views are held, this is a discussion about a change of controller, not individual decisions.

    Instead, let us notice and be grateful that Radio 4 has not lost its relevance in our world: it is still the place where pivotal and important politics is carried out and communicated, new and respected arts and culture is performed, and knowledge and curiosity are prized above all else. Radio 4 matters to its listeners - and there are ever more people tuning in to this, the crown jewel of British broadcasting.

    Mr Damazer has kept the station relevant, broadened its ambitions and helped its many listeners to gain the most from the wireless, including me.

    Ultimately, Radio 4 has enjoyed the benign rule of a person who is a "devoted listener" - and says so on a public blog.

    Finally, let me add that I am most jealous that Mr Damazer is becoming Master of St Peter's, as I'd much rather he were principal of my college.

  • Comment number 13.

    #12. At 00:38am on 14 Apr 2010, Jonathan wrote:

    "Hold on a moment; this is not the time or place to drag up debates about TFTD or the UK theme. However passionately such views are held, this is a discussion about a change of controller, not individual decisions."

    Maybe, but it does highlight areas of either agreement or contention, not everything Mark has done has been well received - true, one can't please all of the people all of the time, if a radio controller does the output just ends with the 'mash' that is ILR!
    I'm sure that Mark doesn't want sycophantic praise and would be the first to acknowledge that he hasn't got everything right.

    "Instead, let us notice and be grateful that Radio 4 has not lost its relevance in our world: it is still the place where pivotal and important politics is carried out and communicated, new and respected arts and culture is performed, and knowledge and curiosity are prized above all else. Radio 4 matters to its listeners - and there are ever more people tuning in to this, the crown jewel of British broadcasting.

    Well yes, there might be ever more listeners, just like there are - no doubt - ever more readers of the Tabloid newspapers, shear (audience) bulk is no way to measure the success of a book, only by opening the cover can one even start making a judgement. Mixed metaphors perhaps, but I suspect you get my drift.

    "Mr Damazer has kept the station relevant, broadened its ambitions and helped its many listeners to gain the most from the wireless, including me."

    Radio Four might still be relevant but is it more relevant, or is it less relevant, sorry to say but for me - one of it's 'traditional' audience, R4 being my first choice for the last 30 odd years - it has become the latter, there was a time when I would be happy to have R4 on in the background whilst I beavered away at my daily tasks but now I find myself either in the company of R3 or the BBC WS (even with the scheduling repeats, sometimes an annoyance, sometimes very welcome), the latter is now more relevant to my tastes than R4 has become - the schedule just doesn't seem to 'jell'.

  • Comment number 14.

    At 9:13pm on 13 Apr 2010, Boilerplated wrote: As for TFTD, rather than have the slot corrupted, I have yet to hear a non political atheist 'sermon' (I would be happy to be proved wrong), perhaps R4 should just drop TFTD entirely, perhaps networking (on both FM and LW) the Daily Service?

    You have missed the point; it should not be a sermon, rather a few moments of reflection on current events from a moral and ethical perspective. The current correspondents often fulfil the brief to my atheist satisfaction until they tag on the God stuff at the end. TftD is an anachronism, that is its charm, but faith does not give the speaker any greater authority.
    http://www.camsecsoc.websitetoolbox.com/post?id=3835525
    http://www.cambridgesecularsociety.co.uk/

  • Comment number 15.

    14. At 10:39am on 14 Apr 2010, gcdavis wrote:

    "You have missed the point; it should not be a sermon, rather a few moments of reflection on current events from a moral and ethical perspective."

    No I didn't, that is why I placed the word sermon between inverted comers, but yes I agree, "reflection" would have been a better word to use.

    "TftD is an anachronism, that is its charm, but faith does not give the speaker any greater authority."

    Nor does someone's atheism, if you really do believe that "TftD is an anachronism" then surely you should be pushing to have the programme cancelled, not changed?

  • Comment number 16.

    I don’t want to exclude the religious voice on TftD, I simply want to include the non religious one.

    The fallacy that religion somehow confers some special moral insight is clearly nonsense and the recent events in the Catholic Church have exposed this for all to see.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dear Mr Damazer

    Best wishes for your new role. Please can you ensure that you take Lenny Henry with you when you go. Thanks.

  • Comment number 18.

    #16. At 11:43am on 14 Apr 2010, gcdavis wrote:

    "I don’t want to exclude the religious voice on TftD, I simply want to include the non religious one."

    But TftD is and has always been a religious slot, I can accept an argument for the removal of such religious slots/programmes but not the inclusion of a non religious element, it would be like showing "Match of the Day" on the TV and then showing figure skating instead of football.

  • Comment number 19.

    Mark

    Did you identify a future direction or ethos for '4extra', or is that state secret to be revealed only by your successor?

    Russ

  • Comment number 20.

    18. At 12:33pm on 14 Apr 2010, Boilerplated wrote: But TftD is and has always been a religious slot....

    ....so what!

    Times change and so should R4. It is as insulting to exclude a non religious voice as it would be to exclude a black contributor.

    If your argument is that the audience expect it to be religious then you have made my point for me. An enlightened broadcaster should not perpetuate the myth that morality is the sole purview of those who believe in God.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm Ghanaian, and had the priviledge of listening to BBC Radio Four when I was going through British-style secondary education in Belgium throughout to university.

    Although I loved the Belgian stations, Radio 4 was a station of choice after I went to university, as much of the information there complemented my tertiary education in wild and inexplicable ways! The "Today" programme (who can forget John Humphrys?!) in particular was--and continues to be--a source of great journalism and erudition, and given my area of study was political communication and international affairs, I could not have asked for anything better than the Beeb's own Radio Four.

    I came back home to Ghana, from Belgium in 2004 to work professionally, and sometimes wish that instead of listening to the excellent BBC Worldservice, I could get Radio 4. Thankfully, re-discovering excellent podcasts has been a relief. Broadband here is good (now managed by Vodafone since 2008), but is often sporadic, so listening live to BBC Radio Four is out of the question.

    Just wanted to say "Thank you!" to BBC Radio Four. Although I can understand why it might never go the way of FM as the BBC WS has done, kindly keep the podcasts coming, as they help some of us BBCR4 aficionados keep in touch with very quality domestic content!

    Oh, and on TFTD, back in Brussels, I was recording almost every edition of it on regular cassette; I thoroughly prefer them as podcasts now!!

  • Comment number 22.

    20. At 4:44pm on 14 Apr 2010, gcdavis wrote:

    "18. At 12:33pm on 14 Apr 2010, Boilerplated wrote: But TftD is and has always been a religious slot....

    ....so what!"


    The part you missed off the quote, relevance to the genre...

    "Times change and so should R4. It is as insulting to exclude a non religious voice as it would be to exclude a black contributor."

    ...so you also think that the BBC should show (for example) figure-skating in place of football within the programme called "Match of the Day"?...

    "If your argument is that the audience expect it to be religious then you have made my point for me."

    No I have not, people expect news and current affairs from "WATO", they would not expect either a pop concert or the afternoon play.

    "An enlightened broadcaster should not perpetuate the myth that morality is the sole purview of those who believe in God."

    Indeed, so they need a neutral programme, not the adulteration of an existing programme, as I said, you might have a valid point regarding the cancellation of TftD, even the moving of the time-slot but not changing the programmes genre.

  • Comment number 23.

    Mr Damazer, thanks for a job well done. As a leaving present we'll be very happy to let you take "Thought for the Day" with you when you go. We know you treasure it just the way it is.

  • Comment number 24.

    My best wishes to you on your journey, Mark....

    (d)

  • Comment number 25.


    Radio 4 will miss you greatly - a huge shame for you to form part of the mass exodus from what was the jewel of British cultural life - the BBC - until the arrival of Mark Thompson and Tim Davie.

    Good luck!

  • Comment number 26.

    Ming vase safely delivered - thanks Mark

 

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