Thursday 9 January 2014
Why P.J. Harvey has risen and John Humphrys has fallen
I realise that the subtext of all my comments in the last blog (A Christmas Medley) could be summarised in a paraphrase of a Clash song: “I’m so bored with the BBC”. Whilst they didn’t redeem themselves totally with the PJ Harvey-edited edition of Today it gave a very rare glimpse of a more radical worldview.
The first thing I heard when I tuned in, assuming it was a normal news day, was someone (John Pilger, it turned out) deriding Barack Obama for the crocodile tears he shed in Nelson Mandela’s prison cell in Robben Island. This from the keeper of keys at Guantanamo. And then he turned on Mandela himself, lambasting him as one of the boys whom the Western powers felt they could do business with. I was amazed. I was stupefied. I turned up the radio full blast so that Lozenge could hear it in bed.
“Tomorrow we’ll have an alternative view of civilian deaths in Iraq,” said presenter Sarah Montague hastily. Yes, I’m sure we will.
The songs were apropos, showed the taste of a pro musician and were not inchoately angry. The match of song and news is a forgotten art and I welcomed its partial return (a note for Today producers: Stanley Accrington is a genius at crafting topical songs and is more consistently funny than 'Thought For the Day'). The poems were more successful still, thanks to Ralph Fiennes' beautiful diction. Rowan Williams’ contribution actually clarified some of my thinking about the limitations of the protest song. And Charles Simic’s ‘Austerities’ could make you weep. Or not. The reading took about thirty seconds but not one second was spared for it to resonate. Instead, the weather forecast was given its customary breathless trot to meet those inviolate pips on the hour. It's the rigidity of the format (of Today in particular, the medium in general) that makes thought and reflection impossible.
Find it at 01:56:55 on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03mhyzh
Anyway, it’s business as usual today, I notice, with news of Tesco’s poor Christmas sales performance delivered in grave tones and the usual line-up of politicians, economists and weasels. The official version has been reinstated, as on all the other 364 days of the year.
I do have a vague recollection of a news programme with a left-wing agenda. BBC2. It boasted contributions from John Pilger, James Cameron (the sainted late journalist and not the bombastic film director) and the late great Ivor Cutler. The thought makes me sigh for long gone yesterdays of hope. Can anyone remember what it was called?
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