Kennedy Wilson on a new arts programme, plus radio review (below).


Culture Gultch

Kennedy Wilson knows what he likes, but do the folk at BBC Scotland?

In 1988, 41% of respondents to an [EA survey said that TV was their main source of information about the arts (only 18% said it came from newspapers) while 50% said that arts programmes went over their heads.

Steering an even path between the high and low brows of culture gulch has always been one of TV arts shows‘ big problems. Back in the late-19505 Huw Wheldon’s Monitor was successful in its broad appeal just as today The South Bank Show remains, as Joan Bakewell once put it, ‘the keeper ofthe flame’.

Recently, however, there has been a rush of new arts shows. The most recent is But I Know What I Like (working title) from BBC Scotland which starts on 5 February and will be introduced by newcomer Clare English.

’The show has quite a wide remit,‘ says producer May Miller. ‘Rather than call it an arts programme we call it a culture programme because it will cover all areas of what people call the arts. We’ll have items on things like a day in the life of a tattooist as well as what Scottish Opera is doing. Lynn Fergusson will be doing the odd thing. She‘s Craig Fergusson’s sister, just think ofCraig with blonde hair.‘

Although the Glasgow 1990 festivities are obviously important But I Know What I Like will be covering the rest of Scotland too. The magazine format promises to be nothing if not flexible. Apart from the show‘s mix of rock bands and such unlikely items as the psycho-sociology of the Tunnock’s Wafer there will be longer reports like that in the fourth issue which examines drinks sponsorship.

‘We don’t see ourselves as a rival to Scottish Television‘s NB, it’s more of a listings programme. We hope to be more thoughtful. And it won‘t be alienating like BBCZ‘s The Late Show,’ says Miller adamantly.


poisoning or buy faulty electrical goods, for example, we have certain legal rights to do something about it. And that’s only right, isn't it?’ Cathy is

/;f' , eel/7 {Ii/$7M / Q i - i , 2°19; ' I"? . - . g | V. I. 1 What lies behind I V ssudden commitment to

the arts (sorry, culture)? While BBC’s chuntering Omnibus seems played out and Arena has become predictably quirky a new kind of pOpular arts journalism has arrived. From The Channel 4 Daily’s ‘Box Office’ slot to Signals and the appallingly anarchic Club X to The Media Show and even Halfway to Paradise there is a sudden urge to analyse and dissect not merely ‘serious‘ art but popular culture as well. The trend started with Arena‘s 1979 programme on cover versions of ‘My Way’ and its homage to the Ford Cortina.

It is generally acknowledged that as TV becomes deregulated and producers commence the ratings war in earnest. so stodgy arts programmes will be first for the chop. Making them more accessible and popular is one way of keeping them in the schedules.


In a Paisley ice-cream parlour in 1928 poor May Donoghue ordered a

BBC Scotland's head of Music and Arts, John Archer (formerly co-editor of Signals and a producer of Did You See?) went on record a couple of years ago saying that he hopes Signals would not prove to be ‘the last stand before the onslaught of the philistine satellite TV era.‘ Now there exists a strong bulwark in TV arts programming. The lucky dip formula ofthe new arts magazines is drawing respectable audience figures. The mix of culture and cheerful kitsch seems to work. While being user friendly is all well and good it must be remembered that TV can also be a valuable means ofchallenging contemporary art something the new programmes seem particularly disinclined to do. (Kennedy Wilson) But I Know What I Like; BBC] Scotland; 10.10pm; Mondays from 5 Feb.

case went to the House of Lords where the original decision was vindicated. May settled out of court for £200 and a


Cathy McDonald, presenter oi ‘A Case of Ginger Beer' (22 January, BBC Radio Scotland), sounds like an incredulous Sunday school teacher who has witnessed one of her charges pocketing the collection. ‘Now if you orl get food

the Julie Andrews of the airwaves, so Samaritan, so bland, so ungrammatical. Linking a script as limp as a regal handshake, she set the scene for what the star of the show, Professor Ross Harper, described as ‘the most famous case on reparation in the world, Donoghue against

l l i l

pop soda, a ginger beer and ice cream, only to discover that a snail, or parts thereof, was submerged in the skoosh. May went down with gastroenteritis, was off work for days, lost wages and sued the manufacturer of the drink, Stevenson, for damages. One judge ruled in her favour but was overturned on appeal by be-wigged triplets. The

legal precedent was set that has been copied to kingdom come, influencing big wigs who pronounce on cases as notorious as the thalidomide scandal. There was gallons of juicy material to

' go on but it all fell flat.

Under-researched and energy-less, this was radio as a soporific, a super

story superficiallytold. (Larry O'Brien)

The List 26 January;— 8 February 1990 57