Archive for the ‘BBC’ Category

Arts about tit.

In BBC, BBC Proms, Classical Music on September 8, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Why can’t the BBC ever get their commitment to classical music right?The latest blunder in quite a long line of missteps is their dedication of Saturday nights to the arts.

Laudable. To an extent.

Landing it on a Saturday night, a veritable ratings graveyard for BBC Two is simply an admission that they should stop competing. If they’d made a commitment to a midweek arts night, it would actually have demonstrated that Tony and his cronies are serious about putting arts at the heart of the schedule.

I suppose they didn’t want any risk – however small – of cannibalising their own ‘alternative’ schedule of baking, sewing and, no doubt at some point is in the future, celebrity candlestick making. 

It’s not that I don’t like poetry. Or Julie Walters for that matter. But, let’s be honest, do we really need to hear Kate Tempest darken this world yet another hip-hop version of someone else’s more original idea?

So in this cornucopia of the arts, where is the classical music?

Non-existent. You’ve got more chance of hearing a countertenor in X Factor.

What about the Proms, I’m sure the BBC will argue. Run by the BBC since 1927, it’s hardly new. And the very few concerts that are broadcast on television are on BBC Four. So basically relegated to the garden shed of television, just past the compost heap of BBC Three.

Young Musician? Similarly, a faux commitment to young talent sidelined because quite possibly unlike the endless programmes about young people making it in the ‘real world’, the BBC doesn’t consider an aspiration to becoming a world-class musician a ‘real job’.

The same for Cardiff Singer. A wholly missed opportunity.
And what about such ventures as Maestro at the Opera, or the new venture to find an amateur orchestra for the Prom In The Park? No. That’s not commitment. It’s badly oroduced entertainment and the BBC finding s way to simply fill their supposed arts quota with cheap fodder.

Sky Arts recently gave us the Bayreuth Ring. When was the last time the BBC gave us an opera? It’s been a while.

When will the BBC commit to an arts strategy that is meaningful and universal?

Rather than continuous slip of the banana skin of false intention to fall unceremoniously on its arse?

Probably never. 


Mommy, dearest.

In BBC, Opera, Review, Richard Strauss on September 1, 2014 at 11:28 am

Review – Elektra (BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, Sunday 31 August 2014)

Elektra – Christine Goerke
Chrysothemis – Gun-Brit Barkmin
Klytemnestra – Dame Felicity Palmer
Oreste – Johann Reuter
Aegisthus – Robert Künzli
Maids – Katarina Bradić, Zoryana Kushpler, Hanna Hipp, Marie-Eve Munger & Iris Kupke
Overseer – Miranda Keys
Young Servant – Ivan Turić
Tutor – Jongmin Park

BBC Singers
BBC Symphony Orchestra

Semyon Bychov (Conductor)

An all-most perfect Elektra made for a weekend of memorable Strauss.

Overall it was an electrifying ensemble performance led by an incredible performance by Dame Felicity Palmer as Klytemnestra.

It’s a role I have seen her perform once before – under Gergiev at the Barbican. Then as now, she was in total command not only of the role musically and interpretively, but of the rest of the cast when she was on the stage. Her diction was perfect, her interpretation of the text flawless, her projection over the orchestra masterful and her characterization beautifully balanced and intelligent. In contrast to the introspection of Waltraud Meier in Dresden earlier this year, Dame Felicity’s Queen was made of steelier stuff, regretting nothing and only briefly showing any sign of affection for her estranged daughter.

As her other daughter, Gun-Brit Barkmin’s Chrysothemis was similarly strong both vocally and in terms of portrayal. While overall she lacked the rich timbre of Adrienne Pieczonka, her bright and gleaming soprano was beautifully matched to the role, and at times her sense of desperation – to escape not only her life but the horror of what her sister proposed – was palpable. In Ich hab’s wie Feuer in der Brust Barkmin negotiated Strauss’ difficult vocal line, delivering the often-missed bloom and her closing calls for her brother were searing in their intensity.

The two men were equally very good. Johann Reuter was a darkly toned Oreste – luxury casting similar to Pape – and Robert Künzli’s light, supple voiced Aegisthus was pointedly arrogant.

Of the rest of the cast, the maids and Overseer also delivered particularly strong and clearly delineated performance – vocally and dramatically. Katarina Bradić has a beautifully rich and lustrous tone and the Fifth Maid of Iris Kupke was also impressive.

What of Elektra herself? I often think that there isn’t the subtlety of characterisation required for Elektra as there is for Salome. The characterisation here is much more focused on a single act – revenge – and without the need for an evolution and awakening of feeling – the dawning sexual desire that is required for Herod’s stepdaughter and which Nina Stemme captured perfectly the previous night.

I admit – as I have said before – that I remain to be completely convinced by Christine Goerke. As at Covent Garden while there is thrilling vocal heft in the middle and lower register, I find that Ms Goerke’s upper range can sound somewhat constricted and at times there is a slight hesitation before singing the higher notes. As the evening progressed I also discerned a slight burr in her voice as well as challenges of intonation. And in those moments of tenderness her voice still lacks that sense of warmth which would give her Elektra a fully-rounded interpretation.

Yet there is no denying her total commitment in the role. The confrontation with her mother was chilling because of her demeanour and the delivery of the text. And there was no denying that that overall it was a compelling performance and stronger than that of Covent Garden.

On the podium Bychov gave the music the necessary space to breathe, indulging in the opera’s lyricism without losing momentum – the perfect balance for Strauss’ music. From the opening bars to the final C major chord, he tempered the orchestra and never let it drown the singers but he also highlighted the more chamber-like moments of the score, drawing out the orchestral light and shade – for example in Klytemnestra’s opening scene and just before her death. And the BBC Symphony Orchestra responded in kind with some of the most eloquent playing I have heard from them in a long time.

With the final C major chord, as Elektra lay dead on the stage, Chrysothemis weeping over her body, there was no doubt that together with Salome, it was a luxuriant – almost decadent – weekend of Strauss to remember.

Lies. Damn Lies. And Classical Marketing.

In BBC, Classical Music on February 6, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Recently two comments about classical music caught my eye in the media.

The first came out of the mouth of Katherine Jenkins as she announced yet another banal and pseudo-classical album. During her press conference at the Ritz no less, she said that “there will always be the core classical critics who want to keep it (classical music/opera) as an elitist thing but I’ve always believed that it should be there for everybody and I want to make it as accessible as possible …”.

The second was during a press conference to announce the Chicago Symphony Orchestra new season. Riccardo Muti said classical music marketing – “Today all you see are violinists’ legs and a conductor with hair like a forest. The future seems to be legs and hair.”

It’s clear that Ms Jenkins was prompted by the label’s canny PR people that to say something contentious would ensure more column inches than the threat of a tenth mediocre album. Words like ‘elitist’ and ‘accessible’ are buzzwords the media love and it does Decca Classical no favours at all to perpetuate this myth.

Maestro Muti’s comment however speaks of an underlying frustration he feels personally. Not only about the trend of marketeers in terms of classical music but also the future of classical music vis-à-vis talent.

I have written about this before and it still rankles me. People like Katherine Jenkins, programmes like the BBC’s Maestro At The Opera are getting the lion’s share of a shrinking pool of money at the expense of real talent and professional musicians. Their activities aren’t perpetuating classical music but rather undermining it and in the long term damaging its future health.

I don’t disagree that classical music should be accessible and not elitist. But it can be done without dumbing down the experience. I contend that what Katherine Jenkins does isn’t about making classical music ‘accessible’ but rather patronising her audience with watered-down performances that deny her listeners the real experience of hearing classical music as it was written to be performed. In a sense, Ms Jenkins and her ilk are perpetuating that ‘elitism’ by implying that their audiences cannot appreciate or love the real thing.

Shame on her but understandable that she should choose the easiest path – one that hasn’t taken years of study, training and dedication coupled with the occasional disappointment.

Because it’s talent that is the most important thing. Not the artwork. Not the photographer who shot it. Not the strap line. And definitely not performing ‘arrangements’ that do no justice to the composer’s original intentions.

I believe that classical music should be a challenge. That’s not elitist and that’s not saying that it should be inaccessible. When people listen to classical music that experience should be as honest as possible.

Because it’s that transaction of honesty and the resultant emotional reaction that gets people hooked. And not only to classical music. But all genres. Yes, even pop and dance. I admit that there are still a few dance tracks that I heard in my youth in clubs that still set my heart racing because of the emotional response and memory they evoke.

There are numerous examples of organisations doing everything they can with every shrinking budgets to reach new audiences. From work with schools and in the community to live cinema broadcasts to reinterpreting the format of classical concerts themselves and even the venues where they take place, some great work is being done to keep classical music alive and kicking.

Sadly the search for an easy route to a quick buck also means that the marketeers are increasingly seeing classical music and those who perform it simply as a commodity adopting an approach that’s more suitable for – to be frank – perfume ads. You know the adverts – glamorous models, often half naked or disrobing as they walk through palatial splendour saying absolutely nothing about the fragrance itself but rather the lifestyle it implies can be achieved.

It might work for perfume ads. It might work for car ads. But it doesn’t work for classical music. More often than not undermines the talent and effort that has gone into creating that recording, that production or that recital.

I’m not asking for a return to moody landscapes and the like and I don’t mind portraits of artists on albums and posters. But surely it be done with a little more honesty and integrity and less of the ‘nudge-nudge-wink-wink’ factor?

Of course the power and arsenal of tricks of advertising should be harnessed for classical music. But intelligently harnessed and deployed. Personally ENO’s condom ad for Don Giovanni didn’t work for me but you can’t deny the impact of their artwork for Le Danse Macabre or Peter Grimes. Similarly recitals can feature portraits of artists without them having to bare a leg or – in some cases – that little bit more. The recent campaign for Yuja Wang by the Barbican waxes lyrical about her “fearless individuality”, “fitting no stereotype” and “speaking with her own voice” so that it seems that her talent doesn’t seem as important as the glamour and “edginess” of her personality.

I fear that labels and their marketing departments are seeing classical music simply as a units to be shifted and a bottom line to be achieved. Of course there has to be a commercial side to classical music but should it be the only impetus?

Why does profit have to be the driving denominator?

That approach does a huge disservice to this creative and artistic community that makes such a massive contribution to the UK’s cultural scene.

A Slice of the Public Pie.

In BBC on February 3, 2014 at 10:27 am

Michael White’s article in the Telegraph on Friday was a well-argued view about the decline of the quality and lack of direction at BBC Radio 3. Personally I always thought it was a shame that Radio 4 got the extra digital channel. A second Radio 3 channel featuring archive broadcasts would have been superb – and possible, reading as I have today of the demise of ‘Archers Lite’ – a more successful station audience-wise – not only pleasing Whitehall listeners but potentially being a way to find those elusive new audiences.

But what White’s article also reminds us is that discussions about the future of the BBC and the review and renewal of its Charter, have started. I am hoping that this will be a longer process than the ‘signed-on-the-back-of-a-fag-packet’ deal that Miller’s predecessor signed with the BBC over the level of the Licence Fee.

It needs to be fought over. Line by line. Not to destroy or undermine the BBC but more to ensure that the BBC remains relevant in the future.

Annually the BBC receives over £3.0bn directly from the public. I’m not here to argue whether it’s an unfair tax or not. Personally I think the Licence Fee is necessary, vital in fact, to ensure that the UK’s cultural landscape continues to enrich our lives. And I mean ‘cultural’ in the broadest sense. Alongside the BBC’s role in television, radio, online and the development and distribution of new technologies I also include the impact it has right across the cultural spectrum.

But while most of their activities are positive, there is no denying that the BBC has not always leveraged it’s Licence Fee wisely or fairly.

For every wildlife documentary featuring David Attenborough, there is something as crass as The Voice. For every Prom concert, Cardiff Singer or Young Musician there are the equally disturbing idiocies such as Maestro At The Opera. For every Shakespeare season there is a search for the UK’s best barber, baker or ballroom dancer to ‘snog, marry or avoid’.

Sadly the return of Tony Hall to the BBC as Director-General has seen a slide back to the imperialist approach of the Corporation he left behind in 2000. Surrounding himself with acolytes like Purnell and Bulford from that yesteryear period, the BBC has become more adamant than ever that it should not shrink further but rather – and more worryingly – expand.

Surely there must come a time when the BBC must recognise that it must reduce the scope of its services in some way? It doesn’t need to axe BBC Three for example but considering the amount it invests in developing new technology couldn’t that channel feasibly become a mobile or online channel only? That way not only could it guarantee that it served new audiences and reduce that channel’s overheads considerably but also lead the way for other companies to follow? Whenever the BBC invests in platforms or technology and takes the risks, other companies are more willing to follow.

And the BBC isn’t above a little ‘aggressive’ competitiveness. There’s ample evidence of that in their chase of ratings and I don’t buy that high ratings are evidence of quality. The BBC invented it’s so called Audience Appreciation index which clearly demonstrates that what the audience perceives as ‘quality’ or ‘distinctive’ doesn’t have to equate to high rating. I also believe that the BBC has played a role – however small – in the demise of local media and journalism.

Three billion pounds is more than a great deal of money. What’s more it is public money, so it comes as no surprise that the concept of ‘top-slicing’ – or sharing a portion of the Licence Fee – resurfaces whenever the future of the BBC is debated.

Fortunately for the bean counters and the policy wonks based at the BBC’s new billion pound fortress, there has never been a cogent or well-argued reason for top-slicing. In the past it’s only been other broadcasters who have argued for it, often against the backdrop of falling commercial revenues.

But perhaps it is because the argument is not bold enough? Perhaps that slice skimmed off the top of the BBC’s coffers should be made available for everyone to share?

Michael White refers to Classic FM’s bid for a cut, arguing that BBC Radio 3 isn’t ‘distinctive’ enough. How the BBC must hate it when their own buzzwords are used against them.

So what if an amount – a figure extrapolated from the total amount of the Licence Fee collected and factoring in the billions the BBC aims to save in the long term – was ring-fenced for the Creative Industries as a whole. Of course I mean orchestras, opera companies etc but also theatres and other performing groups and even the digital and technology companies that are now part of the fraternity.

Of course there would have to be incredibly strict criteria – as well as checks and balances – in place to ensure that this money was awarded correctly. And even stricter conditions would also need to be set in terms of how that money is spent and impact measured.

Perhaps one condition could be that the money received has to be spent within the organisation’s local community, in a sense paying it back into the lives of Licence Fee payers. Larger organisations could potentially guarantee to match-fund any money through their own fundraising efforts. Or the BBC could make good on its often talked about promise of greater collaboration and make long-term investments in permanent exhibitions, co-productions and the like rather than short-term investments that benefit the Corporation more than their partners. I think the shine of the history of the world in one hundred objects has dulled considerably and nothing new seems to be on the horizon.

It’s not unfeasible that the BBC could get a small return on investment in some way. Not a financial return necessarily but perhaps sharing any audience data or insights from funded projects for example.

But is there another reason to seriously consider top-slicing?

Over and above any industry-led argument is there also a moral argument for the BBC to share its largesse?

I’m not suggesting this in reference to the tidal wave of badly handled calamities that have engulfed the BBC in the last few years, the backwash of which is still swamping the organisation. In the face of accusations of corporate malfeasance, weak management, even weaker succession management in the guise of Tony Hall and a continued lack of strategic direction aside, is it right that one single organisation should be in receipt of this entire levy?

And that’s before you factor in the dominant role of BBC Worldwide in to the equation, and the millions of pounds it returns the the Corporation every year. And with Tony Hall looking to expand – not shrink – the BBC’s international business that revenue stream looks set to grow.

And other BBC departments take public money from elsewhere. For example, the BBC Philharmonic receives from Salford Council. I love the BBC Phil and laud their projects such as the current collaboration with the Hallé and their funky Presents series, but what is the money from Salford spent on exactly?

I’m even sure that the hundreds in the BBC marketing department could make it look like the BBC was acting like some ‘public service philanthropist’ throwing proverbial pennies from behind a silk screen.

A while back Maria Miller insisted that the Creative Industries make a greater revenue contribution. Perhaps the creative opportunities of top-slicing could help.

Cardiff & the BBC’s continued cultural deficit

In BBC, Classical Music, Review on June 19, 2013 at 10:44 am

Cardiff Singer of the World should be one of the highlights of the BBC’s calendar in terms of the arts. For a whole week all attention is focused on the city as a panel of judges listen to performance after performance to find singers that will go on to fulfil their dreams of a career as an professional singer.

I am envious of those who can make it to Cardiff even once this week and sit in St David’s Hall. Unlike them, the majority of us must rely on the BBC.

So am I the only one who feels cheated by the BBC?

First and foremost Cardiff Singer of the World is relegated in its entirety to BBC Four and Radio 3. Like the Proms it has been exiled to that distant cultural television outpost by the BBC’s top brass.

No wonder Richard Klein has jumped ship.

Instead the mainstream audience are offered a thirty-minute programme on BBC Two every night. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it is hosted by two complete and total incompetents – Connie Fisher and Tim Rhys Evans. Based on the first half hour it seems that their joint knowledge of singing is totally dependent on whatever some researcher has written on the autocue.

Their only qualification seems to be that they are Welsh. On that premise we should expect that the BBC’s history programmes be presented only by those actually related to the subjects of the documentaries; nature programmes by Doctor Doolittle and news by real journalists and not news ‘readers’.

The nadir of the first programme was when Connie Fisher – at a loss for words in the face of the real talent of Katherine Broderick – had to resort to speaking about her dress. I don’t deny that most of us may mention on occasion a singer’s outfit but it was clear that Ms Fisher’s knowledge didn’t extend any further as the matter was compounded when the autocue clearly failed and she made a hash of filling the void by referring to Rhys Evans’ knighthood.

She couldn’t even get the honour correct.

And their guests were a similar reflection of the total lack of regard that the BBC has for arts programming. Alongside the very excellent Rosemary Joshua, who seemed completely nonplussed by the stupidity around her, the BBC wheeled out that vocal insurance salesman Wynne Evans. To hear him speak with his faux authority on the quality of the singers was ‘comparable’ to the presenters’ own ignorance and lack of insight.

Could the BBC not find one person – in Wales let alone the entire UK – who could speak and host even half an hour on BBC Two with real authority? Why not Petroc Trelawney who is hosting the BBC Four show? Why not another Radio 3 presenter?

Clearly Ms Hadlow, the hapless and hopeless controller of BBC Two still thinks that her audience like being treated as if they are idiots. Her approach to arts programming – as witnessed by Maestro at the Opera – is akin to restoring a painting with crayons – crass and offensive.

From what I hear ‘Call Me Tony’ Hall is making arts a priority. This is either a knee-jerk reaction to recent criticisms from the likes of Brian Sewell or a realisation that without some limp gesture in this area, its charter renewal will be bloody.

But what I fear is that this ‘commitment’ is pure spin. The BBC is currently working on the premise of telling people what they think they want to hear and covering everything they do with a thin veneer of make-believe. They are operating on the belief that saying something – anything – once is enough. Delivering doesn’t matter.

I am sure Tony Hall will be at the final at the end of the week. I am sure that the cameras will pan to him sitting in the audience more than once. I am sure that will be spun into his ‘personal’ commitment to the arts.

But being seen to do something simply isn’t enough. The BBC seems quite content to wantonly fritter millions of pounds on cheap and failing entertainment shows, digital ideas that don’t deliver and ‘hush money’ but seem incapable of treating their audience with even a modicum of respect.

Perhaps Cardiff Singer Of The World should shop around for a more committed broadcaster for its next competition in 2015?

Like the rest of us, it surely can’t just hope things will get better at Auntie.

What Tony Hall Could Do Next

In BBC, Classical Music, Opera on March 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm

The BBC welcomes a new leader after Easter. Sooner than expected if the average term for a Director-General should be counted more normally in years rather than days, and foisted on the Corporation without interview or due process by that great panjandrum Lord Patten.

And what Lord Tony Hall of Birkenhead inherits is an organisation that often seems outdated, out of touch and out of its depth.

Like a gambler with a faulty or marked deck of cards, ‘Call Me Tony’ has already shuffled his management team. He’s shifted some errant executives around, followed Patten’s cue and appointed at will and symbolically renamed divisions as if the digital age had never happened.

Over the next few days, weeks and no doubt months the media will write about Hall’s intray, his first one hundred days – and let’s hope he surpasses that target unlike his predecessor ‘Incurious George’ – and dissect every word and action he undertakes.

His is an unenviable task. He is being heralded by the BBC’s inadequate spin doctors to anyone who will listen as the ‘great bright hope’, a man who will pull the BBC out of its creative mire and tackle the management malaise.

And if rumours are true Hall hopes to put right many wrongs with a war chest of £100 million which he is having skimmed off divisions like a layer of cream in advance of his arrival.

But money can only go so far. For years the BBC has singly failed to come up with a creative strategy and stuck to it. Granted, trying to come up with a single aim and purpose for an organisation that is splitting at the seams with television and radio channels, a morass of mindless entertainment fodder and a website with a voracious appetite is always going to be a problem.

But perhaps it should simply look to define itself by the original principles established by Lord Reith?

Inform. Educate. Entertain.

So on that basis then the BBC’s commitment to arts and culture should be at the centre and benefit from Hall’s chest of gold? Surely?

Currently the BBC’s commitment to culture is haphazard. History, art and literature seem to do pretty well but classical music seems to have hit an all time low in terms of love.

I think Christmas was the last time opera made it to one of the main channels, the Proms have been relegated bar the token appearance and attempts by the BBC to popularise classical music with such ideas as Maestro At The Opera aren’t so much misintentioned and misguided as simply offensive.

Even the recent and most excellent Written On Skin – possibly one of the most exciting and significant new operas for many years – has been recorded for transmission on BBC 4 at a later date. Why it wasn’t broadcast live escapes me.

So, given a blank cheque what could Tony Hall do?

What I am about to suggest isn’t a strategy or a manifesto but simply a few ideas. But none of them, I believe, are too far-fetched to achieve.

Naturally anything he does has to be seen as impartial – a great BBC word when it suits them – and therefore can’t be seen to favour his old friends on Bow Street. But nonetheless here is an opportunity for Hall to cure the dry rot at the heart of the BBC’s commitment to the arts.

And let’s be clear, this commitment isn’t about ratings. It’s about saying that quality – another BBC buzzword – isn’t only about the millions that watch, or about an increase in that other BBC marketing tool its appreciation score, but about standing by a set of principles set down decades ago.

Inform. Educate. Entertain.

First. A simple reversal. If rumours I have heard are true, this year the Proms will not feature at all on either BBC 1 or BBC 2 but be tucked away on BBC 4. I hope my friends in the BBC have got that wrong. I mean no disrespect to Richard Klein. I’ve met him plenty of times. I’ve enjoyed talking with him and hearing both his views and ideas as well as his frustrations, and admired his passion in the face of ever more harrowing adversity and cuts to his budget. But putting everything on his channel doesn’t make it a destination but rather an apology.

So first of all, put the Proms back on the main channels. Again I hear that there are some stupendous proms planned – not least Barenboim and the Berliners performing the Ring cycle – therefore the Proms needs to be actively celebrated for everyone to watch as well as listen.

The BBC might be surprised by the results. Music is one of the oldest forms of entertainment. If done correctly, classical music on television can be just as gripping and entertaining – yes entertaining – as a night at Glastonbury and far more dramatic than that manufactured and mind-numbing pap The Voice which cost the BBC £22 million.

Secondly take a more active role in live broadcast. I hugely admired Bayerische Oper’s live broadcast of Kriegenberg’s Götterdämmerung last year. While that was commercially sponsored, it’s a crying shame that the BBC has retreated from taking any part in the screens that are set up in major cities. I can’t believe the outlay was that much compared to a single episode of Strictly Come Dancing but wouldn’t it be marvellous to revisit that decision and again perhaps use them for the Proms – and not just the Last Night – but also strike deals with other arts organisations and help share the financial burden in some way?

And with the Proms adequately provided for perhaps the BBC could make a bold decision regarding opera? I believe the TV term for them is output deals so could the BBC sign an output deal – possibly the first of its kind ever – with all the major UK opera companies – ROH, ENO, ETO, WNO, Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne etc – and commit to broadcast one or even two of their operas in every season? It’s a bold idea and would take some planning but why not? As well as signalling a very concrete commitment to classical music on a par with the Proms, I am sure the companies in question wouldn’t balk at this new revenue stream. And it needn’t conflict with their existing commercial deals with cinemas as there are plenty of operas to go around. Additionally I’m pretty sure Parliament would like it too and in a concession to those poor schedulers they could be broadcast on BBC 2 and we could have some respite from more ‘bake offs’.

And what about The Space? It’s a smart idea and is being brilliantly championed by the likes of Susannah Simons – the only BBC executive it seems that has a real passion for classical music – but it needs more and longer-term investment. Originally a hurried afterthought for the London Olympics when the BBC realised it’s own cultural contribution was almost zero, The Space could and should play a greater role in supporting the arts – big and small – across the UK. And at the same time be a way to get to young people, that ever elusive audience.

Perhaps a deal with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and their excellent Night Shift and The Works series?

And finally how about prime time programmes that don’t patronise and aren’t presented by idiots? Get rid of ideas such as Maestro At The Opera and follow real musicians – players, singers, conductors – as they try and make a real career based on talent and passion. I like Simon Russell Beale on stage but I don’t want to be subjected to him – or others – pontificating about classical music. If the BBC can secure the ever wonderful Mary Beard then why can’t it make programmes about classical music presented by experts in the field? People who actually know what they are talking about without resorting to a script potentially not even written by someone with specialist knowledge themselves?

I admit this is – as I have said – my wish list. I’d like to come home and switch on my TV and have the opportunity to watch something that isn’t either a half-starved idea created as tick-box television or tucked away in the television equivalent of a gulag for the culturally inclined.

It will be interesting to see what Tony Hall does upon arrival at Broadcasting House.

I’m hoping that his ten or so years outside the BBC – and at Covent Garden – have removed any old loyalties that might lie dormant in his grey suited breast.

I’m hoping he has some bold ideas about the BBC’s future creative purpose and direction.

And most of all I’m hoping he will put the arts – and in particular oft-neglected classical music – back at the heart of what the BBC does.

Inform. Educate. Entertain.


Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

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