17 OCTOBER 1998, Page 27

Radio gaga

Sir: What is wrong with the BBC? Michael Vestey (Arts, 3 October) describes the technical incompetence and perverse rescheduling on Radio Four. I wonder if he has overheard the frequent howlers on Radio Three, a channel once world-famous for the stringent standards of its presenta- tion. I fear he may not have listened recent- ly to the World Service, which, hypnotised by its constantly changing (and so self- defeating) jingles, now indulges in 'voice over' on jingles, a practice quite certain to lessen comprehensibility.

Recently I met a young Scotsman who, on behalf of the EU, co-ordinates aid in Albania. He told me that World Service broadcasts are seriously inadequate: announcers and presenters have forgotten the necessity of speaking with measured clarity in good, plain English. In a region where objective truthfulness is at a premi- um, that is a serious indictment. And voice over jingles can't help.

The board of governors and the BBC's senior management seem to be obsessed with digital broadcasting, with news (there is far too much of it), with bureaucracy and Beebspeak, with the internal market and with talking down to the Blairite majority who are, I fear, embarked upon a populist cultural revolution. Meanwhile, the BBC's worldwide authority is being eroded and the BBC itself diminished.

As an ex-BBC man, I find this lamentable. As to what is wrong, I fear that those who run the BBC are out of touch with radio, which — in cultural terms — is far more important than television.

Robert Ponsonby

Flat 4, 11 St Cuthbert's Road, London NW2