Eddie Mair: the BBC apologises for its latest blunder…

"Rest assured I have asked Ken MacQuarrie from BBC What Remains of Scotland to have a report on the pile of ash that was my desk by Monday morning"


As I write this, the BBC is still broadcasting. Hold on, let me turn on the radio just to double-check. Yes, it’s still broadcasting. Possibly by the time you read this it will not be. Perhaps you should turn on your radio just to double-check. I’ll give you time.


Are we still on? Or was there white noise or birdsong? Or Peter Donaldson’s voice on a loop announcing that Britain is about to be attacked by nuclear weapons? I understand that many years ago Peter had to make a recording to be played in the event of an impending catastrophe. Perhaps, in keeping with recent BBC style, it was broadcast accidentally, thus triggering a nuclear war that has ravaged the planet. In which case, thank you for your continued loyalty to RT. Other listings magazines are no longer available.

Tell me, what is happening in your post-apocalyptic world? I assume The Archers is still going on long wave. Did the massive loss of human life put a dent in the rehearsals for this year’s Lynda Snell Christmas spectacular? Can Tom Archer’s sausages still claim to be organic, despite the off-the-scale levels of radiation poisoning?

It would, of course, be entirely fitting for an erroneous BBC broadcast to spell the end of life as we know it. In those circumstances, there really would be a case for a public inquiry. The Corporation’s critics would have a field day but, as ever, the BBC would be toughest on itself. John Humphrys, who survived the attack unscathed despite being at its hypocentre, would berate the director-general for the fatal broadcast.

Humphrys: Why was the wrong thing broadcast? Surely someone at the BBC can tell the difference between a recording labelled, ‘Jenni Murray’s 50 Things to Do with Spam’, and ‘Peter Donaldson’s End of the World Tape Only to Be Played in the Event of the End of the World’?

D-G: Well, John, it’s a good question. First, let me say that I am as appalled as you about this very serious error. I don’t seek to make excuses for something that has wiped out most of the human race, destroyed most animal life and seriously undermined the case for the licence fee, but I think it should be acknowledged that this would probably not have happened had almost all the BBC’s staff not been on gardening leave to allow them to prepare for the 146 separate inquiries into our other blunders. Naturally, I regret every death, and rest assured I have asked Ken MacQuarrie from BBC What Remains of Scotland to have a report on the pile of ash that was my desk, by Monday morning.

Humphrys: But won’t many people be incredulous at what sounds like a classically complacent BBC response to a crisis that is of your making?

D-G: We are going to do everything in our power to put this right. Tomorrow’s Farming Today will include tips on how to sell charred wool. The surviving cast member of EastEnders (Adam Woodyatt) will incorporate public health messages into his monologue, and that Jenni Murray show will finally be aired – and I think we’ll all find that very useful.


Eddie Mair hosts iPM (Saturday at 5:45am, 5:30pm) and PM (Mon-Wed at 5:00pm) – both on Radio 4