Archive for dumbing down

Daleks Invade Royal Albert Hall: BBC Dumbing Down Scandal

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on July 30, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

A Doctor Who Prom is not a new idea.

There has been a children/family type Prom for many years and they’ve always been very popular.

It’s an excellent way of getting children to hear a real orchestra and I don’t regard it as “dumbing down” at all.

Purists seem to think that every single Prom conducted by Henry Wood himself consisted of Wagner, Beethoven, Richard Strauss, etc., etc.

That’s simply not true.

What’s on the radio?

Posted in BBC Radio 3, Culture, Music with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


I believe BBC Radio 3 has lost sight of its purpose, which is to entertain the public, the BBC has become too concerned with its own self-importance.

The old BBC Third Programme (I am told) never was a music first channel, but an evenings-only channel dedicated to the arts, culture and the intellect. The predominance of music came with the daytime addition of the music programme in the 1960s.

The Reithian ideals of “educate and inform” are often recalled by critics of dumbing down, but in fact the BBC effectively abandoned them long ago in the interests of entertainment to win back TV audiences from ITV.

On television the result can be seen by comparing BBC2 today with what it was when David Attenborough was in charge. And on radio I think there’s been a similar shift away from subjects and values traditionally associated (rightly or wrongly) with white, middle-class male academics.

But towards what? There I think we encounter Radio 3’s identity problem. Unlike Radio 1, 2 and 4 it seems to lack a clear character and focus; it’s trying to please all of the people all of the time.

I have always thought the answer is to re-establish BBC Radio 3 as the channel of the intellect, and define its programmes in terms of how they serve that end.

The other point to make is that demographically the population is getting older, and (I’m guessing a little here) that will include a lot of radio listeners. It’s not so likely that those aged 16-24 (if there are any) form a large chunk of the (potential) listenership. Yet there seems to be this movement towards making BBC Radio 3 more accessible – but for whom? Of course it’s important not to be elitist or exclusive, but inclusiveness can sacrifice individuality. And without getting too dogmatic, if a programme (or a radio channel) is high quality and if it is unlike anything else it is more likely to attract new listeners. If it sounds like everything else, it won’t.

It’s a fair point that BBC Radio 3 would have to sabotage its programmes quite badly to turn people (and their radios) off, because its product is still highly distinctive and quality driven. Most of the complaints are about how they are pitched, the tone, the occasional trivialization, in case it becomes a more worrying trend.

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Private Passions

Posted in BBC Radio 3 with tags , , , , on March 8, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


I used to think that all those complaining about dumbing down were a load of old farts who had nothing better to moan about, but this morning I listened to “Private Passions” on Radio 3 for the first time in months. Dear God, how long has it been this awful? It makes “Desert Island Discs” sound positively classy. What has happened? In past programmes (sorry, shows) the conversation between Michael Berkeley and his guests was often stimulating and enlightening. However, this morning’s programme plumbed depths that I never thought that I would hear on Radio 3, not because it featured a “celebrity” as such, but because it was so embarrassing hearing him justifying his new found taste for classical music, and then going on to play all sorts of things that don’t need to be on Radio 3. And now, to top it all, at 3 p.m. I’m listening to Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata requested by someone in Canterbury and presented by a person who sounds as if she’s on 60 a day – even Natalie Wheen is better than this!

I’m afraid it’s no good complaining any more – I’ve listened to Radio 3 for the best part of 30 years, but with all the appalling things that are happening in the attempt to bump up the listening figures, an old friend is now so terribly disfigured that I’m fear I don’t recognize them any more. If today’s showing is anything to go by, I don’t think anyone can continue to complain quite so vehemently about Classic FM. There’s not that much difference in the two!

The worrying thing is that somebody will think it worthwhile asking Gordon Brown about his taste in music, and make a programme which will then be trailed before, during and after every other programme on Radio 3.

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