Former BBC radio presenter Nigel Rees has revealed to RT the reasons why he stopped working for the British broadcaster, citing Covid-19, the lack of a live audience and woke prescriptions from above.
Speaking to RT on Monday, Rees, the former presenter of the BBC Radio 4 show ‘Quote… Unquote,’ explained that the broadcaster had become increasingly prescriptive in recent years and that he slowly lost autonomy over his program.
Rees left the show, which he created, last month after 46 years, and said he was increasingly angered by the broadcaster’s insistence on pushing its diversity agenda.
He explained in an interview with RT that the BBC was very keen on having a balance of men and women, and that had been the case for some years, but claimed the broadcaster’s idea of diversity had recently gone much further than that.
The presenter, 77, said he was asked to book guests who were people of color, as well as disabled individuals, instead of people who were actually right for the show. “Now you may wonder why that [booking disabled guests] was important in radio. Well, it was something that they thought was important, and so I went along with it, and I went along with the persons of color,” he stated.
Rees said that such interventions went against his principles and ideas for the program. “My rule has always been that we should just have people who are right for the program, who are up for it, who can do it, and never mind what their color is or their religion is.”
He said there was another side to the BBC’s “wokeness,” which did not sit well with him. Rees explained that for the 500th episode of the show, he wanted to include a lyric from Noël Coward’s 1932 comic song ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen,’ and the panel would be asked to identify where this quotation came from.
The line Rees chose was, “In Bengal, to move at all is seldom if ever done.” But the BBC said “no” and claimed that it could not be used because it reflected “colonial attitudes.” The presenter explained that the song makes fun of the English, and not the native peoples who also feature in the lyrics. He added that the intervention resulted in shouting matches.
Rees also noted that there was probably a generational difference between himself, who had been in the business for 55 years, and colleagues at the BBC, adding that the last of his producers was some 50 years younger than him. “She was very much into what you might call ‘right on causes’ and so inevitably she pushed those, and I resisted that to a point,” he said.
Rees also said that Covid-19 and the lack of a live studio audience was another reason why he decided to leave the show.
He noted that recording in front of a live audience was very important to him and his colleagues. Having recorded the show’s 500th episode, Rees said it felt like the right time to pull the plug. He said he’ll continue to write newsletters about quotations, but just won’t be paid for it.
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