BBC Radio 3 came under fire for a major breach of its Dumb Down for Dunstable protocol yesterday, when for the second week running it broadcast an entire evening of opera from Covent Garden without interruption other than informed discussion during natural breaks in performance.
When apologising for what he accepted was a ‘well bad call’, Radio 3’s controller Roger Wright explained that Dunstable had been chosen as the target for the latest dumbing down campaign as it represented the kind of middlebrow, middle England market town that could be won back from Classic FM with a little effort.
‘You can’t expect listeners to sit through hours at a time of high-pitched screaming in some foreign language,’ said Wright, ‘without any comments or feedback. We’re talking interactivity here. We’re talking accessibility. What these muppets are giving us is about as accessible as the Spanish Steps to a Mark 1 Dalek.’
Opera on 3’s producers protested that the broadcasts had featured popular works and famous singers and had received rave reviews from the hyper-critical Rupert Christiansen: ‘One hell of a good show’, and veteran writer Clive James: ‘Strewth!’, but to no avail.
‘I’m looking for a commentary on the action in terms people understand, with pundits and a stream of tweets from listeners,’ said Wright, ‘and to that end I’ve appointed Robbie Savage as presenter, with Andy Gray to add his thoughts when the heroine receives her comeuppance. I really loved his ‘take that you slag!’ in a recent dry run.’
Mr Wright said that changes to the breakfast show, which now includes charts, tweets, texts, a ‘your tune’ spot and a playlist drawn from a Top 100 Classical Bits CD, had improved it vastly, but he was still considering introducing advertisements to give it more of an edge. He has also discovered that the channel broadcasts the entire season of Proms concerts and not just ‘the good one at the end’, and has vowed to sort it.