A strike by agricultural advisers has led to a mountain of unapproved scripts in the offices and corridors of the Radio 4 flagship drama ‘The Archers’.
But Arthur Heffer, BBC agricultural liaison executive explained, “Without the scrutiny of a qualified agricultural advisor, it would be sheer madness to let a script go into production. Meanwhile, the scripts keep arriving.
The calamitous approval backlog is playing havoc with production schedules, leaving some of the nation’s top-rated voice actors struggling to find work.
The problem, says Heffer, is that listeners pick up on the slightest inaccuracy.
“Take this line, for David Archer. Sorry, Brian, I said I'd see you in The Bull, but I still have two cows to shave.
“Two cows to shave. We’re not sure about that. We just don’t know how many cows a skilled farmer like David would reasonably be able to shave single-handed. Get it wrong and you can imagine the outcome. And as for 'see you in the bull'. We need help here.
“In another script, one of the Grundys is about to give birth. What is a typical gestation period for a Grundy? How many vets would need to be on hand? That’s where we need that expert judgment. Our listeners will soon let us know if we’re not spot-on – and how.
Agricultural advisors who are refusing to tackle Archers’ scripts are complaining of the low pay, long hours and immense tedium of the work. “We have to read every word,” said one. “Every blimmin’ word.”
The government has been briefed that Britain has only about two weeks supply of unbroadcast Archers. If the stoppage continues much longer, there is a real threat of radios falling silent twice a day at 2pm and at 7pm - with a danger of severe civil unrest among some quarters of British society.
“That would be ten times worse than the mad cow crisis, believe me,” Heffer warns.