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.