Radio listeners in uproar over presenter changes

Radio listeners in uproar over presenter changes


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2021

BBC Radio 3 has relegated one of its best presenters to the afternoon graveyard slot with this statement: Ian Skelly joins Afternoon Concert from 12th April. He joins a presenting line up including Penny Gore, Tom McKinney, and Fiona Talkington. 

Skelly is the urbane co-presenter of Radio 3’s mid-morning weekday show. He will now be buried in a post-lunch snooze.

Listeners have been writing in anger to Slippedisc and other outlets.

Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3 says: “We wanted to make the most of two much-loved voices on Radio 3 and refresh the daytime schedule. Georgia is a hugely experienced R3 presenter and producer who will bring a range of cultural knowledge to the morning schedules, while Ian will bring his proven skills to the important afternoon sequence.”

Georgia Mann has been making arts programmes at the BBC since 2008. After studying English Literature at Cambridge University, she began her radio career as a reporter at BBC Three Counties Radio, going on to produce Radio 4’s Front Row for several years.

She has become known for her work presenting Radio 3’s Breakfast programme, as well as lunchtime and evening concerts and a range of programmes on Radio 3, including Words and Music. She will continue to present live events, including the Proms.

Broadcaster and writer Ian Skelly has been a familiar voice on BBC Radio 3 for the past 20 years, presenting various programmes on the station, covering a wide range of repertoire from early music to contemporary.

In Israel, meanwhile, there are similar protest over the morning classics show on Kol Hamusica, where new boss  Omer Frenkel (formerly on Army Radio) has brought in a presenter, Alex Anski, who cannot let the music play without jabbering all around it. There have been multiple letters to Haaretz and other newspapers.



  • Graeme Hall says:

    Sorry, but this is BS. I find Ian Skelly irritating and simply turn off the radio when he is on, he will be better in the afternoons when it is more a case of simply introducing the music. Georgia Mann is a brilliant broadcaster – some are just radio naturals and she is one of them.

  • UK Arts Administrator says:

    Mr Davey damns Mr Skelly with faint praise [“will bring his proven skills”] whilst he hypes Ms Mann [“hugely experienced R3 presenter and producer who will bring a range of cultural knowledge”]. Is Ian Skelly not even more “hugely experienced” and knowledgable? Or is this a remake of John Drummond being told by a BBC executive that he had been “tainted by experience”?

  • Annnon says:

    Ah. The BBC. Tick box exercise, especially if one happens to be Cambridge educated, and clueless about the reality of life. Otherwise known as “A Job In The Real World!”

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    We will miss Ian Skelly’s wit and charm on Radio 3 in the morning. His sense of fun and gently cheeky humour has been such a delight, and his knowledge of classical music and performance has filled many an hour with interest and entertainment. He’s been perfect for the morning slot. I’m sure his charm will transfer to the afternoons, but the format, unless changed, will not capitalise on his talents.

    • Stweart says:

      So we loose Ian Skelly and retain his “week and week about”
      doom laden colleague who sounds as bored presenting as I am listening to her.
      Thank you Ian for some enjoyable,lifting mornings !!!

  • christopher storey says:

    Chacun a son gout, I suppose, but for me Georgia Mann is one of the most irritating – and patently least knowledgeable – “presenters” on R3 . Oh for the days when we just had announcers – as do most of the European stations still

  • Gary Freer says:

    I am far more likely to listen to any programme presented by Skellers, who is by far the best presenter on R3. I think it is fairly obvious what is going on here.

  • Nick Möglich says:

    Georgia Mann-Smith???
    Gusher Main-Spout!!!

  • Dragonetti says:

    Oh dear, that’s reducing my enjoyment of R3’s morning slot by at least 50% for a while. Ms Mann seems to be a pleasant and reasonably knowledgeable presenter certainly but Ian Skelly has that certain je ne sais quoi that raises his presenting to a higher level. His wit and charm seem effortless. We can only hope that Georgia grows into the job.
    We don’t need ”just an announcer” for this sort of programme. That belonged on the old Third Programme. The world has moved on since then-or at least most of us have. You don’t need a cut crystal accent explaining dodecaphonic construction at 09:15, you need good music and entertaining but intelligent chat. Ian Skelly was spot on and I shall certainly miss his style.

  • Christopher Clift says:

    Maybe Georgia went to the Clemmy Burton-Hill school of presentation? (And thus became a shoo-in for a BBC announcer’s job)

    • Gus says:

      Clemmie suffered a major brain haemorrhage over a year again in New York and was unconscious for 17 days and it wasn’t certain she would regain her speech. She underwent music based physio therapy and has regained her speech such that she was able to appear on woman’s hour. You never know what’s going to happen to you.

  • Ravage says:

    Given the BBC’s propensity for wanting to “refresh the lineup”, isn’t it more than time for the same dictum to apply to their management?

  • Maximillian says:

    Interesting to see how R3 can stir and divide opinion. Personally I find Skelly highly irritating: his cheeky-chappie attitude grates and his attempts at wit mostly fall flat. Just introduce the music, please. Georgia Mann knows that less is more, and will ensure I don’t switch off in the mornings, as I frequently do when Skelly gets on my nerves.

  • rustier spoon says:

    Oh for the days of Peter Barker…

    • Maximillian says:

      And why did they kick Rob Cowan out? Age, gender or simply too knowledgable?

    • Roy E says:

      I remember him well and as very sad on the afternon when he gave his final presentation. Also when R3 was often interrupted by Test Match Cricket, on one occasion he announced dolefully -“And now – It’s CRICKET”

  • Craig in LA says:

    In America, and I assume also in the UK, classical music is a strong “office listening” radio format, along with other adult music formats such as classic rock, oldies, smooth jazz, country music, adult contemporary (AC), urban adult (soul and R&B oldies), etc. Afternoons are prime time for these formats, not a graveyard shift. Classical radio does much of its business from 9-to-5, while in drive time, US classical listeners are generally more likely to listen to AM news/talk and public radio news (Morning Edition and All Things Considered).

  • Peter Phillips says:

    So Ian Skelly, a gentle, informed and subtly humorous presence, falls victim to the Radio 3 cult of the presenter. I note that R3 has been trumpeting the return of “Clemmy” Burton-Hill in the way it used to promote Katie Derham. I’m currently listening to IS and realise that I shall miss his positive but unobtrusive manner. Thanks, Ian.

  • Brad M says:

    “Uproar”??!! Hardly.

    I find Georgia and Ian similar in their wit and sense of humour. It appears from some of the previous comments thats it’s fine for a man to be witty but not a woman.

    Every time there are changed on R3 there is a flurry of folk who don’t like change. Good luck with claasic fm etc all those who say they are leaving. I have been a listener for over 40 years and am going nowhere.

    Now, if they could get rid of that dreadful Sean Rafferty I would be very pleased…

  • Duncan says:

    I wish presenters would stop mumbling into the microphone and speak clearly- those who drop their voices at the end of sentences are especially irritating as are those who speak intimately as though the listener is next to them in the same room. There is nothing more annoying than having to turn up the volume or stand next to the loudspeaker just to hear what or who was just playing. The music level is fine but presenters…just speak up!!

  • Tony says:

    How can I put it politely? This decision stinks. Ian is the better of the two current presenters and yet he’s had the push. Let’s not beat about the bush, it’s about sex and age.

  • Fran Makepiece says:

    In one sense it IS about gender and age. The managers want to increase the younger female demographic, so two women of similar age are wheeled in to front a prime listening show. Radio 3’s editorial decisions are driven by the type of listener it wants to attract now rather than its cultural remit. Content is similarly tailored to such listeners. And since senior managers are all men, Essential Knitting Patterns and Essential Cooking Recipes will probably be their next Big Idea.

  • David South says:

    I’m not particularly a fan of IS and prefer Suzy Klein but to move him on in such a peremptory manner seems disrespectful. The little I’ve heard of Georgia Mann I can’t say I’m overly impressed. A bit dull really, her manner I mean. By far the best would be Andrew McGregor who sounds engaged with the music.

  • Blossom says:

    Ian Skelly is Radio 3’s best presenter (jointly with Martin Handley). A rare ‘real natural’, warmly engaging with his audience as if chatting one-to-one. Very knowledgable, experienced and skilled at delivering appropriate anecdotes – occasionally a delightful personal one – with charm and wit. His great personality will be largely wasted on Afternoon Concert.

  • Radio Classique after 9am weekdays for me from now on.