Editorial, April: Radio 3 reactions

- 1 April 2014

When Professor Richard Steinitz, who founded the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and was its artistic director for 23 years, wrote us his opinions on the changes at Radio 3 in recent years we thought we’d share them via our weekly email newsletter &#8210 and ask readers if they would like to write in as well. The response has been quite incredible, with many more emails arriving that we could possibly print in the magazine. We grouped a few together in the print edition, and we’ve uploaded unedited versions onto the website &#8210 have a look and by all means join the debate.

Is it possible to draw particular conclusions from these letters? One major caveat is what in the statistical survey racket is known as non-response bias, ie the fact that you can’t claim to have conducted a balanced survey if one group of people is unlikely to respond in the first place. In this case, it is fair to say the people who are broadly content with Radio 3 are unlikely to sit down and write a letter about it, at least compared to those &#8210 very prevalent among our responders &#8210 who feel let-down, annoyed, disappointed, even downright betrayed.

The main common theme that emerges is a lack of patience with the station’s morning programming, with ‘dumbing down’, ‘chatter’ and ‘Classic FM’ being the recurring key words. On the other hand, Private Passions is widely praised; despite involving plenty of talking, it seems to transcend chatter by virtue of Michael Berkley’s erudition and serious tone. Composer of the Week is another strand that was mentioned as a bastion of what is good about the station, feeding in to the feeling on many readers’ part that they appreciated being introduced to new things &#8210 many may be harking back to the Radio 3 of yesteryear, but musical reactionaries they are not. There are more moderate voices too, suggesting that one shouldn’t expect every minute of a station’s output to appeal, and one can pick and choose just as one would with a tv channel.

In tribute to the hardliners, though, a few of whom mentioned it specifically, this issue I declare a moratorium on Night on the Bare Mountain.

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