OPINION: BBC’s strict music policy has killed Norfolk’s radio stars

Keith Skues who has left the BBC after 60 years. Picture Steve Adams.

Keith Skues who has left the BBC after 60 years. Picture Steve Adams. - Credit: Archant

For some weeks now melancholy words have been coming my way from the BBC. Now some of them have broken into to print, the pages of the EDP no less. It’s the BBC which is the source of these unhappy messages. I say the BBC but it would be more accurate to refer to “the BBC, or what’s left of it”. The steps of The Forum (the Beeb’s home in Norwich for those who didn’t already know) have been shaking to the departing footsteps of those people whose faces and voices have been making the BBC what it once was.

Chrissie Jackson, who has recently left the BBC. Picture Martin Barber/BBC.

Chrissie Jackson, who has recently left the BBC. Picture Martin Barber/BBC. - Credit: Archant

Dear old Keith Skues went a few weeks ago. Technically, he should have shaken the corporation’s dust from his feet a bit earlier but he squeezed a concession to let him stay long enough to notch up 60 years behind the microphone. He wasn’t sorry to go. His final years were blighted by the “assistance” of young folk who had no idea of the nature of his programmes or the sort of music he played, and it seemed they cared even less.

He told me that one youngster who spent the programme time tinkering with a smart phone had happily confessed that his only ambition was to serve his time before he could join Radio Five Live.

From what we’ve heard since, the boy was conforming to the vision of the woman who was taking over the control of regional radio (alas, her name escapes me). She actually declared her position on music policy, ruling out anything earlier than The Beatles and declaring war on the choice of music on its merits, that’s assuming there was any music that possessed merits. I didn’t always agree with Skuesy’s choices but he did play some good stuff from the 50s now and then. It’s just a shame that he overlooked some equally good stuff from the 30s and 40s. Blast this principle of labelling music by the year it was made. At least, Skuesy actually listened to the stuff he played and he could tell you why he chose it.

Skuesy’s departure didn’t have so many flags waved over it as Chrissie Jackson’s retirement, perhaps because she wasn’t broadcasting at the dead of night, and maybe because she was anchored to the playlist, a ball-and-chain generated by a computer buried somewhere beneath the Beeb in Birmingham, programmed to hook itself to the Holy Grail: the younger audience.

Of course, it’s a lost cause. It has been since the BBC began back in the 1920s. It failed then, just as it’s failing now. Times have changed. When the Beeb began only grown-up people could afford to buy wireless sets. There’s quite a tale to be told; alas, my fading energy will mean it’s being saved for another day.

The same goes for telly. There are some colourful accounts of well-known faces who once were part of the furniture now forced from the screen, struck down by telly’s enemies: age and fashion. Yet there are some remarkable stories of survival, figures and faces that prevail in spite of forecasts of their being imminently for the chop. How do they do it? Perhaps I might tell you a thing or two.

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