Dearie, dearie me

Rab McNeill’s column in the Saturday Herald is one of the main reasons I buy the paper on that day – I’ve gone down from a 7-days-a-week habit since the death of Ian Bell, though I sometimes still read Iain Macwhirter online.   I’m shedding no tears at the prospect of a merger with The Scotsman, though even just a few years ago this would have appalled me.

McNeil is often laugh-out-loud funny and a few months ago, he was giving his opinions  about Good Morning Scotland on “BBC Radio Shortbread” and in particular their women presenters.  He described one as: “a stroppy virago with a permanently offended sounding tone ….”  who proceeded to “snap at everyone like a dyspeptic terrier that had just had its bone pinched.”  He wondered why “so many Caledonian media females” have the “same malevolent dwarf-on-helium voice”.bbc scotland

If you ask me – and I know that nobody has – their voices vary depending on which politicians they’re interviewing.  And I include the men in this.  I first noticed it with Glenn Campbell who could not keep the sneer out of his voice when speaking to representatives or supporters of one particular party.  Some folk get constantly interrupted by the presenters while others are allowed to continue in full flow.  I have no idea which party Isabel Fraser supports and that’s as it should be; she’s mature, calm and sensible, keeping her political views separate from her professional life.  However with the other female presenters it’s all too obvious which side of the constitutional debate they’re on by who they’re snapping at.  And as for the stuttering and stumbling one – how come she’s still in a front-line presenting job?

Gary Smith, Radio Scotland’s Head of News, is seemingly planning some schedule changes according to Radio Today: Hayley Miller is moving to the lunchtime show with Mhairi Stewart; John Beattie (who’s rarely on his own show at the moment) is moving to a new two-hour “drivetime” show – this is not Los Angeles, Mr Smith; Laura Maxwell is moving to the morning show with Gary Robertson (who can be a bit of a rottweiler himself depending on who he’s interviewing).  Gary Smith is quoted as saying that the three shows will have a distinctive feel and style “in a tone that’s warm and accessible”.  My toes are curling at the upcoming inanities.

Another worrying feature of these changes is the proposed cancellation of the Thursday media review on the current John Beattie lunchtime show.  This is a slot I always enjoy listening to, with the trio of participating media folk being articulate, honest and unafraid to challenge BBC orthodoxy – no wonder it’s going.

What initially did my head in with female presenters was their habit of giggling at each other.  It must be more than 10 years since Jonathan Watson lampooned them on one of his programmes; he was spot on, and I naively thought that they – or the editors – might have done something about it.  But no, it continues and continues to be seriously annoying.  In my opinion, Ruth Davidson was the worst offender, forever laughing at her own ‘jokes’.  When she disappeared as a presenter I was mightily relieved, thinking that was the last I was going to hear of her.  How wrong can a person be?

When she re-surfaced as a Conservative politician, she got a free pass from her former colleagues in interviews and in general coverage.  She’s not the only former journalist who gets this preferential treatment on Radio Scotland news programmes: I give you Tom Harris and Christine Jardine who if not in the studio pontificating, are just a phone call away.

I used to believe the BBC was impartial and that they gave us THE NEWS but with little thought as to who exactly decided what the news was or what kind of slant was being put on it.   Well, the scales have fair fallen from my eyes.  Who on earth decided that on 13th November the most important story on Radio Scotland at 8am was who Tom Harris was voting for?   This was taken from the interview he’d given them about five minutes before!  I can’t be doing with quotes from radio interviews turning almost instantly into headline news or indeed with trailers for upcoming BBC programmes masquerading as news items.

Now, while Tom Harris is in my mind – and I hope he won’t be there for long – Kevin McKenna had a good article about him in The Herald on November 16 entitled: “What are Labour turncoats like Tom Harris playing at?”  What indeed?  I’d been thinking of a stronger t-word than turncoat for him but Mr McKenna tells us that one of Mr Harris’s ex-Labour colleagues suspected he’d always had Tory views.  Tom Harris advocates a Tory vote, knowing all about Boris Johnson’s personal behaviour and political intentions; his loathing of any form of Scottish self-determination and his visceral hatred of the SNP have outweighed any vestiges of loyalty to his previous party – a party that served him well though he has not returned the favour.

As for Ruth Davidson, has she learned nothing from the backlash against her £2,000 a day PR job (for 25 days work a year) while still being an MSP?  I’m not clear who called her fee for participation in next month’s ITV election night coverage “unprecedented” and we won’t know how much it is until she declares it afterwards, but other serving politicians don’t get paid for taking part in such programmes.  Is she really so arrogant or so greedy or so desperate for the spotlight that she can’t wait till she’s no longer getting £63,579 a year for representing her Edinburgh constituents?  Maybe there’ll be a big, showy charity donation in a blaze of publicity where she can jump in the air and grin at her gormless photographer pals.

On Radio Scotland, the giggling is alas not confined to current affairs programmes.  I love listening to Off the Ball  but have had to switch off when either Stuart or Tam is missing and replaced by the constantly-laughing Jane Lewis.  Kaye Adams and Janice Forsyth, though capable and respected broadcasters, sometimes put on silly, singsong voices – why?  Other worthy programmes such as The Kitchen Café and Out for the Weekend can be absolutely ruined not just by their presenters’ overly-enthusiastic way of speaking but also by the snatches of thumping music inserted because there might be a few seconds when nobody is talking.  A brief moment of calm might come as a blessed counterbalance to the shrieking.

On the other hand, Michelle MacManus is very good as a presenter of Our Lives on a Monday afternoon: she’s down-to-earth without being couthy and is genuinely interested in the folk she’s talking to.  She can convey positivity and enthusiasm but she doesn’t giggle and she doesn’t make my toes curl with embarrassment.

There are positive elements to Radio Scotland but, oh dear, some improvements are needed to what is our national broadcasting station.  A ban on giggling would be a good start.


Updates to previous posts:

  1. Green Bottles (February)– Reporting Scotland last week had some coverage of the incoming Deposit Return Scheme but I understand it was entirely negative: all about the prospect of cross-border smuggling of used containers in order to get money vouchers back,  but not a word about the environmental benefits.
  2. I am not a guy (July) – I recently made a second convert to my long campaign against the use of “guys” when addressing a mixed-gender group.  I was so excited after I realised he was agreeing with me and I still am.  He’s promised to use “comrades” instead and I’m just fine with that.

2 thoughts on “Dearie, dearie me

  1. Pingback: Common Sins – Splendid, Bella!

  2. Pingback: Buntata – Splendid, Bella!

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