Radio 3, which I happened to write about in a post last autumn, has decided drop its breakfast show listener phone-ins. From the very first day they introduced on-air listener babbling I saw it as a pretty worthless flirtation with ‘accessibility’, so I’m pleased to see the station controllers acknowledge that these things don’t boost audience numbers.
My first thought was that this turnaround is a rare example of dumbing down and then dumbing back up.
Except the phone-ins weren’t quite an example of lowering brows. Many of the callers were articulate, and they didn’t always outstay their welcome.
It’s just that the phone-in grated as an intrusion into the agreeable Radio 3 cocoon of knowledgeable presenters and quality, varied music. As often happens when commercialisation gets the better of good judgement, or when there’s a scramble to appeal to an unrealistically broad spectrum of people, an unnecessary flavouring is introduced which, like spooning sugar into a claret, alters a pure product for the worse.
I don’t actually mind the changes Radio 3 has made in recent years. For starters, I think jazz has found a natural home there. But an important segment of the output, the morning show, tried to become like so many others. We see this in TV programmes, and of course mass market films too, and my dismay in all cases centres on what the point is of having more of the same. Why would Radio 3 try and become Classic FM?
Being Classic FM is something Classic FM already does, rather well. This is, in fact, why the BBC Trust, mindful that the corporation’s output has to be different from commercial channels if it is to justify its public funding, nudged Radio 3 into ‘resting’ its phone-in.