Friday, 12 June 2009
Ruling the airwaves and fluffing the geography
There's always a temptation to duck a truth about oneself, so when I sat waiting for The Stephen Nolan Show to ring me this morning (they said they would and didn't) and yesterday morning (they said they would and didn't), I didn't want and still don't want to admit that my vanity is a little wounded. I mean, don't they know WHO I AM? A more cool-eyed appraisal of the situation tells me that live radio programmes like that, based on phone-ins, have to go with the flow on any particular day. So while having me come on and add my two bits' worth about journalists and source confidentiality might have seemed a good idea at the time, now that callers are getting excited about their garden sheds it seems better to let things roll.
That said (as they say), it's still very much the BBC way to recoil from anything that might get them into controversy or even, God forbid, involved in legal proceedings. Such things could happen if you allow live comment on a topic that at present is before the courts in the shape of local journalist Suzanne Breen. Anyone who knows the Beeb will know it's a conservative, British-ethosed organisation that has nightmares at the very thought of venturing two inches from the main tree-trunk, let alone out on a limb. Maybe that's a legacy of the TV disaster called The Show, which did a Titanic back in the 1980s, and if you can't remember The Show, don't worry and be glad you're young(ish). Local BBC management might well argue that it's simply catering to its audience (Hugo Duncan announced two days ago that he'd never read a book in his life and no, he didn't sound embarrassed and yes, he is a very popular Radio Ulster presenter); but shouldn't a good broadcasting station try to lead and break new ground as well as cling to its grass-roots? And speaking of Radio Ulster, I'm looking forward to the day when some public-spirited citizen puts a brotherly/sisterly arm around the soft shoulders of the Ormeau Avenue people and whispers that maybe it's a wee bit geographically illiterate to call yourself Radio Ulster when you in fact broadcast to just two-thirds of that province. And urging people to close their eyes and not think about Donegal doesn't work. The county is spattered with unionist-owned holiday homes, some of them belonging to BBC top brass.