Editor's Note: Roger Bolton discusses this week's Feedback, in which Radio 4's editor of editorial standards, Roger Mahony defends recent programmes that have contained sexual references.

    Feedback is available to listen to online or to download and keep 

    Roger Bolton - presenter of Feedback

     

    Presenting a programme which contains criticism of the BBC, but which is broadcast by the Corporation, has its surreal moments.

    This week I interviewed the Head of Compliance for Radio 4 about the broadcasting of fairly explicit sexual content during mainly daytime hours. Examples were drawn from the Archers, Woman's Hour and Samuel Pepys.

    When edited, and before broadcast, the programme has to be complied by the very same Head of Compliance, who is therefore, in a way, complying himself. (It went through untouched.)

    There are some other potential conflicts of interest as well.

    On behalf of listeners I often have to bite the hand that feeds me, be it that of the Controller of Radio 4 or some of her commissioning editors. They decide if I continue to present Feedback. The series itself is produced at an arm's length from the Corporation by an independent company but it obviously wants to have its contract renewed.

    So far so difficult, but also so good in that I have never been censored in what I want to say. We cannot force executives or producers to appear on the programme but we will always tell the audience if they have declined our invitation to appear.

    Ultimately the success of the Feedback depends upon the audience members believing that they help set the agenda and that their concerns, criticisms, and occasional compliments, will be dealt with fairly and impartially. It also requires the willingness of BBC decision makers to be answerable to their audiences, who of course pay their salaries via the licence fee.

    The BBC has to apply the same journalistic standards to coverage of its own affairs as it does to the outside world. That is part of the deal.

    And of course it has to be a good listen.

    However Feedback need not always be about praise or blame. We are keen to help explain how and why decisions are made, to take the listener inside the machine. So do let us know which part of the BBC you would like to explore, and why, and we will try and get you in.

    Meanwhile here is that interview with the Head of Compliance at Radio 4, Roger Mahony.

    Radio 4's Roger Mahony defends recent programmes that have contained sexual references.

    Next week's programme will be the last in the present run. We will be back in October, but do keep writing to us during the break, particularly if you want to go behind the scenes in BBC radio.

     

    Roger Bolton

     

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    Comments

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    • Comment number 6. Posted by philthehombre

      on 17 Aug 2013 16:02

      Despite having to comply himself retrospectively-but then because so immaculately so-the chomp chomp of any editing is sure to leave off his visionary noggin whatever any encroaching enfeeblement because of an uncompliant toe or two.

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    • Comment number 5. Posted by Lawrence Jones

      on 17 Aug 2013 15:05

      Boo-hoo-hoo……and there was me thinking the R4 soldering iron incident would be covered in this week’s programme!!!!!

      "On behalf of listeners I often have to bite the hand that feeds me, be it that of the Controller of Radio 4 or some of her commissioning editors. They decide if I continue to present Feedback. The series itself is produced at an arm's length from the Corporation by an independent company but it obviously wants to have its contract renewed."


      Ahhh, but the problem is that one notices quite a few independent companies producing Feedback. So why do they get the boot so quickly? More important why is the lifespan of Feedback producers so short? I’ve counted 3 over recent months – two girls and one boy + huge numbers since the days when Ms. Viv Black produced the programme. Ms. Williams stated during her first interview on Feedback (when appointed controller) that she was going to chat with all the radio producers – a sensible tonic for the troops. However, radio producers are soon going to get cheesed off if they have to worry about Compliance Officers or pointy nose interferences from R4 controllers. They should be left alone to get on with job – and, hopefully, derive some intellectual satisfaction from producing the programme. Happy producers compile quality programmes and Ms. Emma Kingsley must be dancing on the ceiling after her recent successes with Meeting Myself Coming Back.

      Ms. (Caroline) Raphael addressed the issue of sensitive sexual issues (during school hols) on Feedback about 6 years ago. Her comments were sensible and I’m living proof that featuring explicit subjects on the station doesn’t result in any moral degradation. I tuned into ‘Petticoat Line’ every week when I was 14, simply because the programme’s title contained the word ‘petticoat’ and I thought I might solicit some appropriate bagging-off advice (hee-hee) or hear funny stories about posh girls. No such luck, but it didn’t have any effect on adult life.

      Broadcasters shouldn’t worry about getting sacked. Mr. Chris Dunkley gained iconic radio status after his sacking from Feedback and he’s now up there up there with John Peel, William Hardcastle, Mary Goldring, Susan Rae, Johnny Walker, Chris Evans, Mary Anne Hobbs, Robin Lustig……as one of the radio greats. Additionally, I will always post positively about a broadcaster who gets sacked for putting listeners’ interests ahead of their own career aspirations.

      Some fab progs. on R4 this week: ‘Sounds Like London’ – 100 years of black music in the capital is about the best and most interesting music related set of programmes that I have ever heard on R4. Fascinating narrative, loved the reader’s voice and the musical extracts worked perfectly. ‘Digital Folk’, ‘In Search of Nic Jones’ and Ivor Curler prog (disappointed they didn’t play ‘Grats for Tea’) also deserve a mention. Nick Warburton’s ‘The People’s Passion’ was also a brilliant choice as a repeat candidate. Loved these plays sooooo much. PLEASE don’t give up on drama R4.

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    • Comment number 4. Posted by All for All

      on 17 Aug 2013 09:43

      Briantist,

      "It should be possible…"

      And if all 'the pitches' have been millennia fouled?

      Imagine yourself, in the voting booth, alone but for 'God'

      What would be your Feedback vote:

      1. Acceptance of slavery, no further to fall, you hope

      2. Acceptance of mastery, your own possible, you hope

      3. Acceptance of equal partnership, liberation of 10bn, assured

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    • Comment number 3. Posted by Briantist

      on 17 Aug 2013 06:36

      @All for All: Ever heard of the phrase "Elevator Pitch"? I think it would help your case if you had made one.

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    • Comment number 2. Posted by All for All

      on 16 Aug 2013 19:34

      Dear Feedback,

      Despite a Royal Charter acknowledging the 'interest' of Our People, endorsing the 'great value' we place in 'an independent corporation' disseminating information and education (as well as entertainment), the BBC almost certainly is timidly failing 'the public interest' for which it exists, allowing itself an unconscionable freedom to neglect definition both of 'the public interest' and of that which only can define - in a shareable sense - 'the public interest', namely freedom within 'democracy' as equal partnership, 'sustaining (equal) citizenship and (viable) civil society'.

      Even if 'Our People' has some restricted or weighted definition (such as legally to afford dictatorial powers over the meaning of language, to 'the government of the day' between elections, and to 'the established parties' in the run-up to elections), the BBC could I think consider hosting - every five years at least, in the hours or days between poll-closure and the swearing-in of the next government - a debate with both expert and public involvement, on the pros and cons - 'in our national life' - of those features that appear, at least to some, to preclude genuine democratic freedom, namely the ubiquity of fear and greed, and of corruption, frank or subtle, pervasive, from universal forced conflict of material interest.

      The BBC "shall be independent… subject to any provision made by or under this Charter or any Framework Agreement or otherwise by law", underlining the primary need for 'democratic agreement' on the definition of public interest and democracy, pertaining as they do to the legitimacy of government, the obedience owed to the law and its spirit, and the ownership of "any Framework Agreement" as not made under duress. There can be no moral refuge in 'Audience Councils' themselves neglectful of or forbidden from advocating democratic perspective.

      The Royal Charter states (paragraph 49) that "a Framework Agreement must be consistent with this Charter and, in the event of any contradiction, the terms of this Charter shall prevail". Wriggling again, "It is hereby declared that the content of the Framework Agreement as made on 30th June 2006 is fully compatible with the intentions of this Charter". This declaration is supportable from reiteration in the Agreement that "the BBC exists to serve the public interest", but in the list of 'simple definitions' (as in the Charter) neither 'the public interest' nor 'democracy' is to be found, and the latter term - once a 'fundamental principle', then degraded to 'British parliamentary democracy' - has in the latest 'Framework' Agreement been altogether 'disappeared'.

      The above circumstance renders the Framework Agreement highly suspect if not contradictory in its own declared aims (paragraph 6), of "understanding", "literacy", and "enrichment of the public realm", and in its requirement (at paragraph 7) that the BBC "stimulates interest in, and knowledge of, a full range of subjects and issues".

      It might be relevant to note, at paragraph 48, the freedom of the BBC to "apply for and accept a further charter for the continuance of the BBC, or a supplemental charter, or promote a Bill in Our United Kingdom Parliament or the Scottish Parliament, if it appears to the Trust appropriate to do so". Accordingly, unless there is found ready agreement at lower levels to the broadcast of debates as proposed above, I would be grateful for referral upwards to the BBC Trust.

      Yours sincerely,

      Robert Reynolds.

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    • Comment number 1. Posted by newlach

      on 16 Aug 2013 18:04

      What Mr Mahony said made a lot of sense, though I was surprised by his comment (if I recall accurately) that a third of the calendar year is taken up with school holidays in at least one part of the UK.

      There is nothing wrong with the occasional use of the word "cock" on Radio 4 and Archer's fans who object to someone missing the smell of their lover really need to get out more. The line: "She gobbles like a gander" harms no one except those who are extremely sensitive or, perhaps, those who are especially fond of ganders.

      Mr Mahoney is right to stand firm on this issue and not to cave in to the demands of a vocal minority who appear determined to rid every moan and groan from Radio 4. In fact, many of the children they claim to protect will be quite knowledgeable on the subject of sex and to suggest that Radio 4 is somehow responsible for corrupting them is nonsense on stilts. Admittedly, listeners who have sexual problems of one sort or another may be more inclined to object to hearing anything about sex on the radio. This is no reason, however, to stamp out all references to sex on Radio 4.

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