Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ralph Vaughan Williams & The BBC

There is no composer, pop or classical, that I revere more than Ralph Vaughan Williams. His, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, is probably my favourite piece of music . I saw it performed in Texas by the Houston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson in 1985 and it moved me to tears. All RVW's symphonies are brilliant, but his Sea Symphony (No.1) and A London Symphony (No.2) are my most played. Next year is the 50th anniversary of this quintessentially English composer's death. To celebrate it Channel 5 are showing a two and a half hour film at midday on New Year's Day. The film, made by the brilliant Tony Palmer, is, you might think, an unusual thing to find on the fifth channel, surely BBC2 or BBC 4 would be the natural place for such a programme.

Apparently Tony Palmer offered the programme to the BBC but they rejected it with this letter.

Dear Mr Palmer, Thank you for your enquiry about the composer Mr V Williams. Having looked at our own activity via the lens of find, play & share, we came to the conclusion that a film about Mr Williams would not be appropriate at this time. This is essentially because we are... reconstructing the architecture of, and to do that, we need to maximise the routes to content. 'We must establish the tools that allow shared behaviours, and so harness the power of the audience and our network to make our content more findable. We have decided to take a radically new approach... and therefore free resources for projects of real ambition... So, given that this is the new vision for Vision, you will understand why a film about Mr V Williams such as you have proposed does not fit our remit. But good luck with the project, and do let me know if Mr V Williams has an important premiere in the future as this findability might allow us to reconsider.'

The BBC claim to have no knowledge of the letter having been sent and say they are planning their own programme about Vaughan Williams. There is a great article in the Observer today with more on the story of why the BBC seems to have an alterative cultural agenda to the rest of the country. It appears in the same week that the BBC we hear are BBC are making a new version of the Nativity, with Joseph and Mary as asylum seekers turned away by Britain - read more in the Spectator. You really couldn't make it up.

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