The BBC Trust is worried about the relatively small number of BAME listeners who tune in to BBC’s over-35s station Radio 2.
(BAME, by the way, is the latest PC term for people who aren’t white. It stands for Black and Ethnic Minorities. So remember that, Cumberbatch, next time you’re on TV and you want to demonstrate how impeccably right on you are. Remember, also, to pronounce it correctly. The “a” is long, as in “car”. And the “me” is pronounced as in “me no likee all this PC bollocks”. Get it right Ben, my friend, and this could land you your next potentially Oscar-nominated starring role in the forthcoming biopic The Lenny Henry Story).
I’m worried too. However few BAME people actually listen to Radio 2 it is still far, far too many, as I was reminded only yesterday while listening to BBC Radio 2’s star morning fixture, the Ken Bruce show.
Ken was wittering away – as Ken does – about alarm clocks. The thing about alarm clocks, he pointed out, is that you grow attached to them and never think to replace them till they’re broken. Because why would you, when they’re not broken? Why indeed, Ken? Why indeed.
Though I’m not a racist myself, I suspect that if I were I would be very, very enthusiastic about the BBC Trust’s recommendation that BBC Radio 2 “should address the disparity in reach among BAME listeners.” What I’d want is for ethnic minority people is to be rounded up off the streets a bit like the Child Catcher does in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (perhaps they could be lured into his cage with ackee fruit or samosas or fried noodles, or whatever the BBC’s Chief Diversity Officer believes is best suited to the local community), herded into a large room full of comfortable arm chairs and forced to listen to BBC2 Radio 2 for a whole day, with perhaps a double dose of Ken Bruce, then Jamie Cullum’s jazz programme and Sunday Night With Michael Ball.
Then they too will appreciate, as Radio 2’s mainly middle-aged and elderly white audience does already, that to become a regular listener of Radio 2 is to enter death’s waiting room. You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.
You might wonder, incidentally, what I was doing listening to Ken Bruce in the first place. The reason was, I had tried Radio 4 and it was the All Men Are Rapist Bastards Show (aka Woman’s Hour with Jenni “actually, I’m Dame Jenni Murray” Murray); then I’d tried Radio 3 – but instead of classical music it was an interview with some black opera singer talking about ethnic minorities and I just thought: “I simply don’t care. No one does. There’s no colour bar for opera singers – see, for example, the not exactly unstellar career of Jessye Norman. If I want to hear a black woman on Radio 3, I’d like to hear her doing Strauss’s Four Last Songs, not making some half-baked political point.” Things have come to a pretty pass, haven’t they, when you scan the BBC airwaves and you realise that Ken Bruce is the least worst alternative?
Reading further down the BBC Trust’s report, though, what puzzled me was its inconsistency. At no point in its discussion of the BBC radio Asian Network did it express concerns about the fact that fully 85 per cent of its listener base are of “Asian” (ie from the Indian subcontinent) origin. Oughtn’t the station to be doing more to broaden its audience, perhaps by ditching some of the programmes in “a range of South Asian languages” and maybe giving a slot to Jeremy Clarkson, who seems to be available at the moment? Just a thought.