What’s wrong with BBC Radio 3? Start at the top…

What’s wrong with BBC Radio 3? Start at the top…


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2017

Damian Thomson in The Spectator has launched a List of  Topics We’d Rather Avoid On Radio 3.

Here’s one:

The career of Alan Davey, controller of Radio 3. His Wikipedia entry mentions that he was previously director of culture at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport — but not that he reported to secretary of state James Purnell. Nor does it record that Purnell backed Davey to be head of the Arts Council and — when Purnell slid from parliament to the BBC — beckoned him over to Radio 3.

More here.



  • Paul Kelly says:

    What an interesting and excellent Spectator piece. It reminds me of the funniest story I ran across about Alan Davey. It goes thus: A few years ago as part of an exercise to introduce first year BA Hons students to who runs culture and cultural policy in Britain, and to test their research skills, I gave them all a selection of photos of key cultural people including Alan Davey and sent them off to find three or more facts about them and come back and present their findings. One of facts that one student reported was that Alan Davey once helped give birth to a calf in Iceland. Marvellous! Who’d have thought it? I wished I’d asked for the source now. Hope it was the same Alan Davey.

  • David Osborne says:

    What the hell did I just read? What’s this guy’s point, is he calling for the resurrection of William Glock?

    …”veteran purveyors of lefty platitudes”…
    …” cartel of ‘safe’ composers”…
    …” the sort of environment that tested the resolve of every experimental genius from Bruckner to Boulez”…

    See how they do it? Always underhandedly slipping in the insinuation that the post-war avant-garde have a lineage they can claim from the great composers of the 19th century, a contention that is so demonstrably false you have to question the sanity of anyone making it. Dull, incoherent brain-dead journalism.

  • Chris says:

    I just wish so many Radio 3 presenters would cease telling us, the listeners, how good, or really good, or brilliant or, or the last performer was.
    Many of us who listen to Radio 3 have spent many years in the music profession, and do NOT need to be told this drivel, which is a personal opinion anyway.
    Sarah (Mohr-Pietch), ‘Clemmy’ Burton-Hill, et al – please keep your opinions to yourself!!

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Spot on! You could also have mentioned the ever-gushing Katie Derham in her BBC2 Proms extra series. Every single artist she referred to was “amazing”, every musical piece was “sublime”, every performance in the Royal Albert Hall was “staggering” and “breathtaking”. This never-ceasing explosion of superlatives delivered with simpering smiles to the camera does nobody any service. Not everything in classical music is “absolutely great”. Will she ever learn, I wonder?

      • Stweart says:

        Well said Chris and Alexander ! Include the gushing and ill prepared Sean Rafferty too.

        • Sue Black says:

          I agree. I also wish they would stop raving about new compositions. I realise they mustn’t be rude or offensive, but what about ” I found that very hard to listen to”. Something the composer could reply to or justify. I wish someone would do a survey on how many peices of crap we have to sit through at the proms before we get to the proper music have ever had a 2nd performance. And has anyone noticed how atonal music has never been played on Classic fm? Why not? Because although some of it is 100 years old now it has never entered the popular brain, despite far more accessibility than music has ever had. ( just in case some smart arse was going to remind us that Bach vanished for nearly that long)
          Sorry for rant.

        • Ken Dodd says:

          I cannot stand Petshop Baloney aka Petroc Trewlawny either!

    • Peter Phillips says:

      However, let’s sound a positive note for Petroc Trelawney and Sarah Walker.

    • Philip Savins says:

      Can’t agree. For many listeners ( non musicians) having a little more insight into certain works and interpreters is always a bonus. All the Radio 3 presenters provide an excellent service, particularly the ladies (Suzy Klein and Elizabeth Alker especially) and their individual styles are refreshing and thoughtful. I’m

  • Will Duffay says:

    I’m not sure anything in the Spectator is worth reading. It’s a dirty reactionary rag full of lies about climate change and the NHS. I expect this piece is the usual tired nonsense about the BBC full of lefties.

    • Peter Phillips says:

      Well yes, there is a touch of that about it but it also acknowledges – rightly in my experience – that radio 3 is “the best classical music station in the world” and that is not to mention the five orchestras. That said, the BBC seems to be bowing to some external pressure when it broadcasts Mahler 6 by the LSO and Saint Simon (Jan 19) two days before one of its own orchestras (BBCNOW in Swansea) gave the same work, unbroadcast.

    • Alan says:

      As opposed to the leftist crap we hear every day from anti brexiteers, anti Trump supporters, Guardian/Independant readers, BBC etc etc. Oh btw, that famous right winger Tatchell contributes a book review in same issue. Open minded and fair or full of lies eh?

  • António Jorge Pacheco says:

    Definitely full of lies!

  • Justin says:

    How amusing to see Norman Lebrecht link to an article that says:

    “…Norman Lebrecht’s blog Slipped Disc, which breaks more stories in a day than Radio 3 does in a month. Funnily enough, I haven’t heard Lebrecht on any of its programmes recently. Maybe it’s personal..”

  • David Nice says:

    Damian Thomson is all right-wing spite and malice. Not to be taken seriously, ever. So I’m not even looking at this latest piece.

  • Barrie Carson Turner says:

    I’m interested to know who in (beloved) Radio 3 decided the definite article should be given the push? I suppose (R3 not responsible for this) it began with ‘Tate Modern’ – then (beloved) R3 picked this exciting idea up for the naming of orchestras and concert halls (I even once heard ‘performed on South Bank’). The thing is, the presenters just can’t keep this one up – they flap from using it to not using it. Also cringe making is the archaic use of the possessive apostrophe, demonstrated to death this evening by Martin Handley. So instead of the clear and intelligent ‘Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony’ we had the naff ‘Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony.’ The thing which these wits don’t realise is that this use of the apostrophe doesn’t accurately work in speech. In speech you would never know, for instance, if you said – Martin Powells’ Symphony, whether the guy was called Powell or Powells. I once even heard someone say Berlioz’ Fantastic Symphony. Oh gawd. And I won’t start on French pronunciation. Just say it in English for God’s sake guys! And all those silly names they have – Chastity Cauliflower-Cheese, et al. Oh sigh!

    • Garry Humphreys says:

      Well said, Barrie! You’ll be pleased to know that Chastity is off to pastures new following a piece in the Radio Times recently about Sheku Kanneh-Mason, sloppily written and full of lazy assertions – not cause and effect, I’m sure, though it ought to be! Perhaps it’s my age but I long for the days of the old announcers (NOT presenters), such as Cormac Rigby, Patricia Hughes, Tom Crowe, Peter Barker, John Holmstrom, etc., who knew how to behave and how much to say and not to say, and said it in clear, unambiguous English, instead of the torrent of unconsidered and inarticulate drivel to which we are now subjected. But it won’t happen because no-one can do this any more and Radio Three no longer takes its listeners seriously. Most of the time I now listen to Radio Four.

  • Gavin Wilshaw says:

    Must we be invited to worship at the altar of the god Bach before 7.00 EVERY single weekday morning?
    How tiresome it has become.

    May I remind Radio 3 that other gods are available.