Bring back the British theme of Radio 4, Penny Mordaunt urges the BBC
BBC Radio 4 is expected to bring back the UK theme early in the morning – its orchestral “love song” to the UK’s four nations – a senior government minister has told the company’s chief executive.
Penny Mordaunt, a Cabinet Office minister, told Tim Davie that bringing back the British theme, an orchestral arrangement of traditional British and Irish tunes, would be a way of reconnecting society with its audience and upholding ‘regional and local diversity “.
The five-minute British theme was popular with early risers and aired on Radio 4 every morning between 1978 and 2006 ahead of shipping forecasts.
The tune included excerpts from music associated with the four nations of the UK including; Danny Boy, What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor ?, Scotland the Brave, Rule Britannia, Men of Harlech, Greensleeves, Londonderry Air and Early One Morning.
Composed by a Jewish refugee as a ‘love song’ in the UK
The theme was composed by a Jewish refugee, Fritz Spiegl, who came to the UK in 1939 after his family fled fascist persecution, as a form of “love song” in the UK.
However, the song was controversial by the BBC on St. George’s Day in 2006 to make way for another newsletter.
In a letter to BBC Managing Director Tim Davie, Ms Mordaunt, writing in her capacity as a local MP, stressed that many people “feel a certain pride” in the company.
She said: “There is a lot to be gained from the BBC reconnecting with its audience and rebuilding that trust, and I know that is your goal.
“An example of the loss of this trust is the removal of the ‘British theme’. I’m sure you are aware of this, but what is not often appreciated is where it comes from.
“The UK theme was not a jingo mix, as is often portrayed. Written by a Jewish refugee, it was a love song for those who took him in.
“There would be no better way for the BBC to show that they listened and learned than to bring him back. I encourage you to think about it.
“ A movement designed by his timing to hurt ”
In her new book, Greater – Britain After the Storm, Ms Mordaunt described the removal of the British theme “as a movement designed by its timing to hurt”.
“Not for the first time, this self-centered organization suffered another self-inflicted scar surpassed only by the ‘Rule Britannia’ line in September 2020,” she said.
Ms. Mordaunt continued, “If you don’t invest in relationships, can you be surprised if they wither away? The “UK theme” was exactly this type of investment.
“You would think the BBC would understand that. It also has nested identities; he can be Scottish, British and European at the same time. Just like all of us.
Sources close to Ms Mordaunt said the British theme could even be modernized with other regional tunes for the 21st century.
The initial decision to drop the UK theme in 2006 was criticized by Jeremy Paxman, then BBC2’s Newsnight presenter, who said: ‘We have no idea what the head of Radio 4 is playing – we’re considering. to use it every night. “
Things got worse when it emerged that it had been deleted after Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer misread a report about how many people liked to listen to it.
He mistakenly thought that listeners could be measured in the hundreds when in fact it was hundreds of thousands.
Mr Damazer later said: “I don’t regret it, but I think I underestimated the fact that I was causing some people considerable pain.”
Mounting bracket for the rebirth of the melody
Jake Berry, chairman of the Nordic Research Group of Conservative MPs, backed Ms Mordaunt, saying last night: ‘It was a mistake to drop the UK theme in the first place – the sooner the better.
“There can be no better publicity for modern Britain than a mixture of patriotic tunes written by a Hungarian immigrant who made his home in Liverpool.”
The 5.30am slot had an average weekly reach of 800,000 listeners in the first quarter of 2006, when the UK theme was last broadcast.
Government ministers are putting increasing pressure on the BBC to do more to project the union. Earlier this week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the BBC had to “project British values” if it was to survive.
In March, Davie was criticized by Tory MP James Wild for including only one image of a union flag in the company’s 268-page annual report.
Asked yesterday on Radio 4’s Today show if he understood what the projection of ‘British values’ meant, Mr Davie replied that if he could ‘not speak for government ministers’ he said that the BBC was a “valuable asset” to the UK. and represented “trusted journalism and democratic values”.
The BBC confirmed last night that it had received Ms Mordaunt’s letter and will respond to it in due course.