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Feedback: How easy is it to contact BBC programme makers?

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Hancocks Half Hour 07/10/1956 © BBC Kenneth Williams, Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr and Sidney James

Feedback returns this week at 4.30pm on Fridays with a repeat at 8pm on Sundays and we are of course available on BBC iPlayer.

So this week I was sitting in Western House, next to BH in central London, waiting to interview Radio 2's Head of Programmes, Lewis Carnie.

The young man in charge of the studios looked of course around 12, and behind him on the wall were black and white photographs of the comedy greats of 50 or even 60 years ago.

Of course, dear reader, I recognised them all.

Tony Hancock, for example, was flanked by Kenneth Williams, Sid James and Bill Kerr. Around the corner was a photo of "Professor" Jimmy Edwards with Joy Nichols (shortly to be succeeded by June Whitfield) and Dick Bentley rehearsing "Take It From Here".

So in writing this week's Feedback script I popped in a TIFY catchphrase "Black Mark Bentley".

None of the people in the office, and some are not in the first flush of youth, knew to what or whom I was referring. The reference was removed from the script.

I tried another tack, this time to demonstrate that I was not totally out of touch with contemporary culture, referring to TOWIE.

This half the office did get, although of course they would not admit to watching ITV's The Only Way is Essex.

So how wide and how old can cultural references be on Radio 4?

Just yesterday on the Today programme I heard Leonard Cohen (oh you know him) quoting Yeats (WB the poet) about "The rag and bone shop of the heart".

I turned away from these reflections to the business in hand and asked Lewis Carnie why he had chosen Richard Madeley to stand in for Chris Evans on his station's breakfast show.

We also explored how easy or difficult it is to contact BBC programme makers. Do let us know how you get on in trying to make your point.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by philthehombre

    on 23 Jan 2012 13:39

    Add your comment

    The degree of difficulty encountered in contacting programme makers is a reprimanding measure of the laxity of their collective paymaster in enforcing the rules an accountability when the necessarily skint has to dig into the pockets of the many.

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by newlach

    on 21 Jan 2012 13:30

    That reference that was removed from the script was gibberish. It is the sort of thing that that company that arranges cruises for oldies might use in its ninety-plus publicity material!

    I was not satisfied with the argument made by the BBC administrator chap, Denis Nowlan, that the indirect means by which communications from listeners get to programme makers benefits licence-fee payers. On the one hand he said that producers are busy and their time is valuable (a point with which I agree) but on the other hand he said that the indirect method requires a BBC producer (and I presume someone to oversee this bureaucratic tier) simply to forward emails. On this specific point he was inconsistent. Generally, he was all over the place and reeked of incompetence.

    If a programme maker wishes to have a direct link by which listeners can get in touch it should be provided. Listeners, however, who expect programme makers to enter into detailed discussions are misguided. Take, for example, the Today programme. Listeners can get in touch directly, but with 6 million or so listeners each morning what resources would it take to answer all queries? If just 1 per cent of listeners are cranks (a conservative estimate) that is potentially sixty thousand answers that no one should be expected to give. Add to this figure the great number of obsessives, pedants and lonely and you have a job without end!

    I agree with the person who tweeted asking for "Americana" to be brought back. The decision to axe this fine programme was a total disgrace. And I am not looking forward to this special on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee that Williams has lined up for listeners. Perhaps this is more suited to those oldies on the cruise!

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by Denis Downing

    on 21 Jan 2012 09:06

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 1. Posted by Lawrence Jones

    on 20 Jan 2012 20:13

    "How easy is it to contact BBC programme makers"?

    They are not remotely interested, so why bother? The fact that the BBC has banned all on-line radio discussions illustrates the hostility the BBC has for its listeners – and Radio 4 has always been the major offender. The experiences of the serious R4 messageboard contributors are testimony to this.

    In the days when Woman’s Hour ran two messageboards, females used to ask ad nauseam why the programme wouldn’t support its TWO messageborads. They would report how they’d contacted WH for an explanation – and would never receive any response. Needless to say Dame Jennifer Murray et al never made even one contribution to their own messageboards. This was despite the fact that WH derived many features via the MK3 messageboard – and never bothered to acknowledge this. One newspaper actually wrote a glowing article about poster ‘View from the North’. I have yet to read a newspaper article about Dennis Nolan. Mr. Nolan’s snooty comments on today’s programme made it clear that R4 regards its listeners as a necessary nuisance.

    There were some outstanding reviews of the R4 drama output on the R4 drama board – all ignored on a regular basis. It was – literally – once in a blue moon that a playwright or producer would bother to respond. The same applied to the arts messageboard. At one point thee engineers were keeping the arts MB alive! Over the years, I would often help out with science and engineering (R4 hates genuine engineers) queries on the R4 MBs (Ph.D engineer, currently engaged in the design of the ITER Fusion reactor in the South of France). I can charge up to 1000Euros/day when employed in a consultancy capacity. However, as a lifelong radio fan (since the ago of 3), I was only too willing to devote my precious time to helping out my fellow radio listeners. There were several former BBC engineers who would also help out on the science boards with some magnificent contributions. Why couldn’t the R4 controllers and associated personnel ever be bothered to reciprocate? Mr. Bolton actually interviewed Gavin Alan - former deputy editor of the Today programme – on Feedback and he admitted that he had never viewed the ‘Today’ boards prior to his interview. So why was R4 granted any boards in the first place if it was clearly so hostile to its listeners – and not interested in their opinions of R4 output?

    I went to the trouble of placing very positive postings about the R4 producers who caught my aural attention: Ed Morrish, Kate Murphy, Emma Harding (superb production of ‘Edgelands’), Torquil MacLeod, Cathie Mahoney……continued P264……Mr. Morrish was the only one who ever bothered to respond with an occasionally amusing response.

    The good news for me is that I recently reported Gwyneth Williams, ‘Feedback’ (refusal to respond to this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio4/2011/10/rajar_listening_figures_for_q3.html#comments ) , The ‘Points of View Messageboard’ (including host) to the Culture department and received a most gratifying response, with recommendations – one avenue of which I am now following.

    Lawrence Jones (an ex-Radio4 fan)

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