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
- Mark Damazer spoke to John Humphrys about his decision on the Today programme this morning.
- The Guardian, BBC News Online and The Independent on Damazer's departure.
- Mark has been elected head of St Peter's College, Oxford and will take up his new role on 1 October. Here's the St Peter's announcement.
- Some more photographs taken in Mark's office this morning.