Are there too many plummy voices on Radio 3?
Janet Street-Porter certainly thinks so – recently attacking the station for being a “bastion of cosy middle class listening with endless chat now ruining it”.
Speaking at the Radio Festival last weekend she said of the network: “It seems to assume that only one kind of person listens to classical music.”
And today Radio 3 controller Alan Davey admitted that the classical music and arts station does need to do more in this area, despite his belief that it is already representing a wider range of regional accents than some people might think.
“People say we are too South-East sounding. You can argue with that,” he said at the launch of Radio 3’s autumn/winter season, adding that the accusation is traditionally “tossed” from the commentariat and was “a little unjustified”.
Davey cited Barnsley-born Susan Walker, who presents Essential Classics on the station, and Irishman and In Tune host Sean Rafferty as examples of regional diversity already on air, but nevertheless promised: “But I do want more voices from around the country.”
Among the autumn highlights launched by Davey are a season of dramas curated by actress Harriet Walker and the long awaited appearance of playwright Alan Bennett on music selection programme Private Passions.
“He loves the show and we have long wanted to get him, so we did,” said Davey.
As well as a roster of classical concerts and operas the season will also include a season on US playwright Arthur Miller featuring David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker in Death of Salesman and Alfred Molina in A View from a Bridge. And there will be essays on Miller from Richard Eyre, Margot Leicester, Ron Hutchinson, David Thacker and Tony Kushner.
“We are more than a radio station;” said Davey. “We are a radio station, a digital service, a collection of some of the finest orchestras and choral groups in the world and we’re an internationally renowned classical music festival, The BBC Proms.
“It’s part of what makes us so distinctive and which wouldn’t be possible without the licence fee. We are a whole universe of high quality culture. We operate in classical music, culture, jazz and world/roots music. We are utterly unique, a cultural institution and part of the cultural ecology of the UK.”