I was thrilled to learn this morning that Katie Derham is joining the BBC to present the Proms on television and radio. It is a significant step in Mark Thompson’s strategic review to reverse the insistent dumbing down of culture that has raged in recent years.
The Proms has been a particular target of the dumb clucks who run the main TV channel. First, they imposed as presenter the grinning gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, a cuddly fellow who endeared himself to the nation’s middle-aged female spread but who knew and felt so little about music that a speaking autocue would have injected more passion into his links.
After an upsurge of public discontent, and a number of attacks in my column (starting here), Titch was replaced by a so-called ‘professional presenter’, a sometime lawyer named Clive Anderson who stumbled over the simplest of names and missed the obvious jokes.
Now, in Katie Derham, they have found someone who is both presentable and knowledgeable about music, who can express her engagement with the music without sounding either patronising or incompetent. Katie, 39, who lives down the road from me, will be giving up her role as an ITN newscaster and probably also as a Classic FM sleepytime DJ.
She joins the BBC in a week when one of its ratings-hot presenters, Adrian Chiles, swooned off in a huff to ITV. In the realms of television schedulings, her recruitment will be regarded as an industrial counter-coup. In the more important business of ensuring that music is mediated to a mass public, Katie Derham is a long-overdue stride in the right direction.
Proms controller Roger Wright will announce the full programme later today and I’ll present a summary here.