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Month: November 2012

The name’s the game

The name’s the game

Yesterday, on Twitter, ‘child protection expert’* Mark Williams-Thomas named a celebrity who was being interviewed under caution by police as part of Operation Yewtree. In a curious construction, he said that it was “part of #Savile other #sexual offences”. His tweet was retweeted extensively.

This morning, he told his followers to “[r]emember if you are going to RT tweets they may be relevant to a certain time & may not be the same hours later”. It might have helped his followers assess the relevance of the tweet if he had subsequently added that the celebrity in question had been released without charge. If I said that Mark Williams-Thomas went on trial at Chichester Crown Court in June 2003 for blackmail, I would be stating nothing other than a fact. However, it would be highly irresponsible of me not to add that Williams-Thomas was acquitted.

No news outlets named the man, referring only to a man in his 80s from Berkshire. The main source for the identification of the celebrity is Mark Williams-Thomas, and many  unpleasant, prejudiced comments about the personality have resulted, some Twitter users clearly having learned absolutely nothing from the whole McAlpine episode.

There is also another problematic dimension. There is no suggestion anywhere that the interview concerned child abuse offences.  Indeed, official sources stress that there is no connection between these allegations and the Savile business. In all of the coverage of Dave Lee Travis’ recent visit to a police station that I saw, only Damon Green’s report on ITV News made absolutely clear that the accusations came from women who were adults at the time of the alleged incidents. However, when a ‘child protection expert’ names a celebrity who has been interviewed by police as “part of #Savile other #sexual offences”, how many people are going to make that leap of assumption and lump this person in with Savile? Today’s Daily Mirror front page headline, “Savile cops quiz kids presenter”, is a nasty piece of innuendo. The effect of that five word statement is potentially far more than the sum of its parts.

* Please note that I am not putting this in quotes to pour scorn on the description. I am merely making it clear that I am quoting from Williams-Thomas’ own Twitter biography.

Ghosts? Sod ’em.

Ghosts? Sod ’em.

While the BBC pulls itself apart, there is still a lot for the Corporation to celebrate on its 90th birthday. One of the most astonishing moments of radio I ever heard was when I was reviewing wireless for the New Statesman over a decade ago. No, not the Alan Freeman programme, though that was good. It was the clip of James Shimayola on Channel Africa played by Radio 4’s A World In Your Ear, about the bedtime concerns of the good people of Zanzibar.

In 2001, the world was a different place, and radio reviewing was a different job. If you were lucky, you received preview cassettes, but with a lot of programmes going out live, the reviewer had to either listen in as they went out or record a hell of a lot. I did a bit of both, timer-recording VHF onto long-play hi-fi VHS tape and buying a Psion Wavefinder when digital started to get a toehold. The Psion was a terrible, shonky piece of shit, but it looked like a Doctor Who monster’s eye and it felt like the future. In those pre-iPlayer and Radio Downloader days, if I missed a programme that seemed worth reviewing, I had to ring the press office of the relevant radio station and ask nicely if they could dub me a cassette. So it was with this edition of A World In Your Ear. A friend, possibly my long-time co-conspirator Nixon Bardsley, had heard the programme and told me that I had to hear it. I rang the Radio 4 press office and the tape duly arrived.

Ever since, I’ve marvelled when recalling the programme, and vowed to dub the cassette when it turned up. It was always ‘here somewhere’, but the question was where? I moved house last month, from Suffolk to Gloucestershire, and felt sure that all of the things that had disappeared without trace over the years (not least a Praktica BC1 with 28mm, 35-70mm and 70-210mm lenses, Michael Grade’s memoirs in hardback and the World in Your Ear cassette) would turn up as I packed. The camera and the book remained elusive, but I found this. Could it possibly be? Well, yes, it was, but there was one small mystery. It wasn’t the tape I’d been sent. That had been a plain black cassette with a BBC Radio 4 label stuck on it, and that didn’t show itself in the preparations to abandon my far Eastern bolthole. I must have copied the tape to give to someone (possibly Nixon), and then forgotten to hand it over. The archival purist in me still hopes the original will turn up, because it’s a whole generation less hissy. However, if it didn’t turn up in the move, the odds are slim, so I must be grateful that I made a backup copy all those years ago. I suppose that’s the moral of the story. Now, I’m dispersing my backup and committing Mr Shimayola’s superb report to online posterity by sharing the all-important segment with you. However good I might have made it sound in the Staggers review, the reality is even better.