My Sacking - the backsplash
By Martin "Opportunities (let's make lots of money) as my good friends The Pet Shop Boys used to say" Kelner on Mar 24, 2016 - 5:06:08 PM
At BBC Sport's launch of its coverage of the 2004 World Cup, to which I was invited as, er, a respected sport-on-tv columnist, I found myself in the gentlemen's rest room, where I met Gary Lineker.
We shook hands - after washing and drying obviously, a far more laborious procedure in those days before the Dyson Blade - and he was kind enough to say he enjoyed my column, despite my occasionally having mercilessly taken the piss out of him.
It was the first of many urinal-based celebrity encounters I have been able to bore my listeners with over the years; William Roache, alias Ken Barlow at a hospitality do at Aintree, Coldplay's Chris Martin in British Airways' first class lounge at Heathrow, Mike Pickering of M People at a football match, Eurovision song contest winner Dana in the unisex toilets at Radio Hallam (obviously not urinals, that
would be a story), the late Edwin Starr in the Camelot Club, Taunton...
In fact, were I to write a memoir, it would be the Armitage Shanks version of Diary Of A Nobody.
None of the above, however, were among the thousands - literally thousands, not the thousands local radio managers make up when they're spinning the RAJAR figures - who have been kind enough to send messages of either sympathy or bewilderment following my brusque dismissal from BBC Radio Leeds.
I was particularly gratified with the reaction from those I have interviewed in my 1 on 1 spot, our local version of Desert Island Discs. The brilliant comedian Romesh Ranganathan was good enough to text me offering to appear on my podcast as soon as it's relaunched. Another fine comic, Justin Moorhouse, twice a guest on 1 on 1, 'phoned me, while lots of other former guests, including Jon Ronson, David Hepworth, Richard Osman, and Paul Sinha, left messages on Facebook and Twitter. Most of my ex-colleagues, and lots of radio professionals have been in touch too, mostly, understandably, in private messages, which were really appreciated.
But what was even more encouraging were the hundreds of real life listeners professing themselves as baffled as me at my sudden disappearance. I have been trying to reply to some of the mail, but the volume has defeated me, so apologies if you sent me mail to which I didn't reply.
And to those of you saying you intended to remove Radio Leeds from your presets, or bombard Managing Editor Sanjiv Buttoo (perpetrator of the charmless 3-minute sacking) with hate mail, that really was not the reaction I wanted, so honestly thanks, but no need. The broadcasters and producers I have left behind are my friends.
In any case, I'm not sure Sanjiv has the unique combination of idiocy and low cunning to have dreamt up the defenestration scenario himself. Given the unnecessarily multi-layered management of BBC regional services, it may well be a woman called Helen Thomas (twitter: @Helenths) who is head of BBC Yorkshire who is behind Radio Leeds's mythical 'change of direction.'
She dropped me from the breakfast show a few years ago, admittedly after a couple of dodgy surveys (although interestingly, a breakfast show producer said to me recently 'They'd kill now for the figures you had when you were doing breakfast.'), and has always seemed more interested in meeting targets than promoting anything in danger of being described as fun.
But whether it's Helen, Sanjiv, or indeed David Holdsworth (the extravagantly remunerated head of Nations and Regions) who is responsible - Holdsworth once professed to being an admirer of mine as a broadcaster, so thanks Dave - here's something, as licence payers, you may be interested in.
Nine months or so ago, an edict went out to all the producers at BBC local radio, detailing the latest, er, change of direction. It said that while local radio was still to be about news, issues, and so on, more emphasis was to be put on "personality."
Presenters were to be more companionable, fun to be with - the pamphlet didn't put it as succinctly as that, obviously - and to that end, presenters and producers were sent down to London (I'm not making this up) to learn "personality." You paid for these courses, for the train fares, and for overnight stays in nice hotels (not quite the Marriott, but a step up from Travelodge, the kind of place that has melon balls on the breakfast buffet). It wasn't felt necessary to send me on a course.
Our previous boss felt I already had personality enough, describing me as a 'heritage broadcaster,' (which is why I start with the heritage tomatoes as a tribute any time I'm fortunate enough to dine at Polpo).
The fact that local radio seems happy to throw away its heritage might give you an indication as to why audience figures continue to go down.
Here's another. In its largely ignored press release about its new direction, Radio Leeds announced a three-hour phone-in to replace my programme, with this deathless come-on
“Yorkshire folk are known for their forthright views and for not being
afraid to share them, so I’m looking forward to some lively discussions."
If that's not the most patronising fucking sentence you've ever read, you're not trying. It's the kind of thing Caroline Aherne - who incidentally I introduced into BBC radio - as Mrs Merton, was parodying with her 'heated debate' twenty years ago.
Look, I was hoping not to get too Partridge about this, but I may have failed. Sorry.
Now, though, I need to move on. Thousands of messages and overwhelming support from the listening public are cheering, but don't put food on the table. So let me finish this blog in my unwanted new role as an entrepreneur, with some unmissable opportunities for anyone with a sponsorship budget:
1) Every Monday I do my long-running
Screen Break column about Sport On TV for the website sportingintelligence.com. Please have a look at the column. There are three or four of them on the site.
Sporting Intelligence is a highly regarded website within the sports industry, award-winning (I know 'award-winning' means fuck all, my local butcher claims award-winning pasties, but these are from the Sports Journalists Association), with a healthy Twitter following, and bookmarked by most sportswriters and practitioners in the UK.
The column itself is cross-promoted every Friday afternoon on Talksport in my regular light-hearted sport-on-tv spot with Hawksbee and Jacobs. If you wish to be associated with the values of (a) sport, and (b) having a laugh, Sporting Intelligence is entirely open to including your branding on my column.
(2) The wonderful Stephanie Hirst and I are planning a podcast called
Radio Legends from her state-of-the-art studio in the media hot spot of, er, Barnsley, in which we will treat listeners to exclusive items from both her and my extensive media archive, alongside interviews with personalities we know. I suspect Tony Blackburn might be an early interviewee. Again, if you're interested in being associated with this fun item, do get in touch.
(3) Finally, a labour of love, the long-running and highly popular (with the people who like it)
Piss Poor Podcast, will return, using the subscription model that worked so well for us in the past. We have already had scores of fans willing to cough up 50 quid a year for weekly outpourings featuring the, er, unique take on life of Edouard LaPaglie, but if you wish to be associated with this one-of-a-kind product, the opportunity is there.
Sorry to use this medium as a sales pitch, when probably all you wanted was more stuff about the BBC, which I love by the way; Desert Island Discs, documentaries on BBC4 about the Mamas & Papas, Eddie Mair on PM, my urinal chum Gary Lineker on the footy, Cerys on 6Music, those little half-hour documentaries on Radio 4 in the middle of the day about the History Of Marmalade and suchlike, the opening of Midweek, the funniest five minutes in British radio, when Libby Purves tries to knit together disparate guests including someone who's been up the Andes on a yak, an opera singer, a historian who's written a book about the Hapsburgs, and a monumentally unfunny stand-up who's been highly praised for an improvisational piece at Edinburgh, I love it all.
Anyway, get next week's Radio Times for my BBC local radio stuff, I've got a column in it.
Back to business. If you're interested in any of the above opportunities - sponsorship, not the yak or the marmalade - do get in touch. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, or at email@example.com