BBC Radio 4

    Feedback: Disappearing Interviewees

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    Roger Bolton - presenter of Feedback

    Some presenters rather like breakdowns on air. I mean the technical sort of course. Even the most hard-bitten, cynical journalist doesn't want to reduce the interviewee to tears. (I hope I am not being naïve.)

    No, I mean when a line goes down or doesn't come up.

    I remember working on BBC1's Nationwide programme with Frank Bough, probably the greatest live presenter I have ever known.

    You could feed four different sound sources into his ear and he would listen to them all without a flicker, while continuing to talk to an interviewee. Frank had earned his spurs on Grandstand where he had to move between lots of different outside broadcast sources without a script or a fumble.

    As a result, most other programmes, even the live, multi-itemed Nationwide were pretty much plain sailing for him. I don't say he was bored, just not extended.

    However, if something went down and he had to fill, while editors like myself were running around the studio gallery in a panic trying to work out what to do, he really came alive. Only he could save the show, and of course he did. Every time.

    When I presented Radio 4's live Sunday programme for 11 years there were occasions where I too hoped for some dramatic breakdown so I could save the day.

    Mind you in my - perhaps rose-tinted – memory, things did not go wrong as often as they seem to be doing on Radio 4 at the moment, and on the Today programme in particular. Lots of listeners have written to us concerning about interviewees who disappear or never appear at all.

    In this week's Feedback I talked to Andy Bocking, the technology controller for BBC Journalism and put to him the concerns of a number of listeners, including Geoff Petty who wrote us about a particularly bad case of disappearing interviewees on the Today programme.

    Andy Bocking, the BBC's Technology Controller for Journalism, on why live lines drop out.

    By the way we will shortly be talking to the Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, who of course is also the Controller of Radio 3, about how he puts together 75 proms running over 2 months, and about whatever else you want to ask him. So please call, email or write to us with your questions.

    Roger Bolton


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