One opera singer pops up in BBC’s defence

One opera singer pops up in BBC’s defence


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2021

The Guardian has published a letter from 18 arts people, objecting to a report that the BBC’s outgoing TV arts chief Jan Younghusband was consistently negative about classical music and opera.

The only opera signatory is a soprano who has occasional slots as a TV presenter. Her husband has also signed.

We publish the letter and its beneficiary signatories in full. It is a fair reflection of executive quality, closed ranks and lack of transparency at the BBC in the Martin Bashir era.

We feel strongly that your article (BBC showing ‘negativity verging on hostility’ to classical documentaries, 14 May) provides a wholly inaccurate and unbalanced view of Jan Younghusband’s role as the BBC’s head of music commissioning.

We know that many who have worked with her have only admiration for her extraordinary work in ensuring that the BBC remains at the forefront of both classical and popular music broadcasting. The classical music documentaries broadcast during her tenure are a testament to her desire to find fresh narratives in the genre – and reach new audiences.

Jan has been inspirational in this role and has been a tireless advocate and supporter of both established artists and emerging talent. Her commissions have won awards across the board – including an Oscar. She will leave a great legacy for the corporation to build on.
Roy AckermanGus ChristieDanielle de NieseGuy EvansAngela FerreiraHoward GoodallLiz HartfordSir Lenny HenryNicolas KentTim KirbyIan MacMillanGreg SandersonTom ServiceProf Amanda VickeryMichael WaldmanFrancis WhatelyRoss WilsonDr Lucy Worsley



  • James Weiss says:

    “Arts figures.” I laughed out loud. Most of these people have nothing to do with the “Arts.” Not a single major classical music figure signed the letter. It’s worthless.

    • christopher storey says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more . But I think you may be uinderstimating some of them : I can’t wait for Sir Lenny Henry as the soloist in Brahms B flat Piano Concerto

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Don’t know most of the others but Gus Christie and Danielle de Niese are undeniably “major classical music figures”.

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    It’s interesting how few of the signatories are professional artists. Also interesting that 2 or 3 have featured in some of the BBC’s recent dumbed-down approach to classical music. Have to admit after the hugely trumpeted new arts season on BBC4 followed by news that there was to be no new commissioning on the channel, I wonder what the recent appointment of the new arts/music heads is likely to lead to, if anything.

  • Herbie G says:

    How many of the signatories are, or have been, receiving salaries or payment of any kind, from the BBC? We need to know.

    Can we also have a list of all those who have left the BBC because they felt that it it was no longer was meeting its obligation to provide cultural content?

  • J. Shaw says:

    No surprise that many of these ‘arts figures’ were on the payroll thanks to commissions and contracts dished out by Jan over the years. It must have been a warm and cosy club.. all at the taxpayers expense of course. Ultimately though, its those taxpayers that lost out due to years of poor-quality music programming. Unfortunately, many of us in the business will remember Jan Younghusband’s legacy for all the wrong reasons.

  • Patrick says:

    Mostly BBC apparatchiks then