The demise of Front Row

The scene is a planning meeting for Front Row, BBC Radio 4’s flagship arts programme, at the BBC’s expensive offices in Salford. Around the table are sat the production team.

Editor: “So, what do we all think about Jake’s idea? The guy who’s written the novel about the orphan who gets into crime but then finds his way and becomes rich?”

Researcher: “Is he black?”

Jake: “No.”

Producer: “Gay?”

Jake: “Don’t think so.”

Researcher: “Is he a woman?”

Jake: “Er, he’s a man.”

Researcher: “Oh, yeah…Trans?”

Jake: “Doubt it.”

Editor: “Does he mention the gender pay gap, then?”

Jake: “No, nothing like that.”

Producer: “What about homophobia?”

Jake: “That doesn’t come up.”

Researcher: “What about anti-establishment?”

Jake: “Yeah, you could say that.”

Editor: “Is he anti-Trump, though?”

Jake: “The thing is, the story’s set in Victorian times.”

Editor: “Sorry, you did say. What’s his moral line?”

Jake: “I suppose he takes a traditional Christian view of things.”

Editor: “No good, then. Sorry, Jake. Now, let’s move on…Tell you what, I really like the idea about this arts festival for gay dog owners…” 

I’ve been listening to Front Row for several years, and I’ve heard some great interviews. But, increasingly, when I tune in now I find myself feeling that I am being preached at. I get the impression that some items on the show have not be chosen for their artistic merit, but rather because they tick the politically correct boxes drawn up by BBC bureaucrats who are part of the diversity and equality industry.

Recently, for example, it seems that the main focus of many discussions or interviews on the programme is what a book, play, film, or piece of art has to say about women: the Me Too movement, inequality, under representation, gender stereotypes, sexuality.

Front Row is in danger of becoming a parody of itself – just like the programme depicted in the new Alan Partridge TV series.