The Beeb's dying breed

by Louis Barfe

Eddie Mair’s departure from PM was as classy as you’d expect. He said nothing about it being his final show, and closed with a reference to an item earlier in the week about Morecambe and Wise. He said that the programme had received numerous messages from listeners, including one who suggested that Mair should play the country singer Willie Nelson’s version of Bring Me Sunshine. Which he duly did.

Very subtle, and if you heard it without visualising Eddie leaving the studio in his cap and raincoat, holding a carrier bag, you must be younger than me. Of course, it might have been significant in a different way. Mair is off to detoxify lBC, and Eric and Ernie were never as good after they left the BBC for Thames. We shall see how it all works out.

There have been other notable recent departures from the BBC, not least in the field of local radio jazz programmes. I’ve written already of Paul Barnes telling the BBC what they could do with their terrible fee, and now on the west side of the country, Graham Pass has abandoned his excellent show because he’s too busy making shows like the documentary series Double Acts for Radio 2.

Thankfully, John Hellings keeps the flag flying from BBC Hereford & Worcester across several stations in the west and Midlands (sundays, 8pm). Last week he opened with a track from a previously unreleased 1964 Erroll Garner concert, and for this alone he earns my undying gratitude.

Long may he thrive. The trouble is that when presenters step down from these shows, they’re almost never replaced like-for-like. The sea closes over them, and all that remains is usually the same old bland, cheap parish pump chuntering that seems to characterise so much of BBC local radio.