Save the Naked Scientists – Update 3: the Pod Delusion

I managed to get my act together enough to do a spectacular little rant for the Pod Delusion podcast. Listen and download here – my bit starts at 48min36. For those of you that prefer reading to listening, there’s a transcript below. There’s also an update on the situation on the Naked Scientists Facebook page:

Do you love science? Of course you do! So do the Naked Scientists – we’re a group of researchers and medics who’ve produced and presented a weekly BBC radio  show on Sunday nights for the best part of a decade, covering science, medicine, technology and all that kind of stuff. I was just a radio nipper when I started co-presenting the show back then and my voice sounded like this.

You might have only heard us on radio if you’re in the Eastern counties of England – Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and the like – but our podcasts have been downloaded by millions of people around the world, bringing great science radio to the ears of local and international listeners. And all of this from a little BBC radio studio in Cambridge.

In case you haven’t listened to the Naked Scientists, we aim to make science fun and understandable – we present the latest discoveries, speak to amazing researchers in academia and Industry from East Anglia, the rest of the UK and around the world, have phone-ins where people can ask us questions, and kitchen science where you can join in with experiments at home – all with a hefty dose of fun. The good kind, not the zany kind. It’s exactly what the BBC should be doing – it’s educational, information and entertaining, and it’s now being axed.

Yes, as of January 2013, the Naked Scientists will no longer be gracing the BBC airwaves across the Eastern counties. Let’s be clear – this isn’t a financial decision. The Naked Scientists is funded by grants, and we cost the BBC only £40 a show. To put it in perspective, George Entwistle’s recent Director General payoff would have paid for 11,000 shows. I only get paid £50 a show, which also cover the hours of prep each show takes.

No. The BBC have made this decision on so-called editorial grounds for two reasons – firstly, that we’re too specialist. Unlike the specialist gardening, religion, country music or other specialist shows they have. No, science, technology and medicine are somehow too niche for local radio to cope with, despite it touching all our lives, and also being a rapidly growing area of popular culture – OH HAI BRIAN COX!

The BBC have also said that the show isn’t local enough, despite being helmed by a local doctor, Chris Smith, and broadcast from what I certainly consider to be one of the greatest scientific hubs in the world – Cambridge (yeah, you wanna fight about it?). We feature a whole host of local researchers, not just from Cambridge but from the region. And how did the BBC get the idea that only local science is relevant to local people. Does Suffolk not have chlorophyll? Do the good citizens of Norwich not get cancer? Do satellites give Ipswich the swerve when they go over? (well, I wouldn’t blame them…)

The Naked Scientists should be a jewel in the local radio crown. Instead, they’re axing it to give more time to those vital issues of generic music and tedious chit-chat. And as a local musician whose band is based in Cambridge, I find this a double slap in the face – it’s not like they’re pledging to play only local music! It seems like only local science is local enough for local people, but music from across the world is fine. And in my day job for Cancer Research UK I often go on local radio to talk about national or even global cancer news stories, so I know that local audiences are interested in national and international science.

Feeling outraged yet? You should be. But you can help to save the Naked Scientists. We need to get loads of people to tell the BBC that local radio listeners deserve better, and that perhaps the Naked Scientists should have an even wider audience. How about that shiny new BBC England station they’re starting up next year that’s going to replace some of the oh-so-precious local programming with national programmes anyway? Here are the people to email with your thoughts, so go and get a pen.

Alison Hastings – at the BBC trust. She deals with local radio issues, and her email address is Alison.hastings@bbc.co.uk

David Holdsworth is the controller for BBC England. He’s David.holdsworth@bbc.co.uk

And Mick Rawsthorne is the regional controller for the Eastern counties – that’s mick.rawsthorne@bbc.co.uk

All these addresses and more info are on the Naked Scientists Facebook page – that’s facebook.com/thenakedscientists

Thanks for listening and thanks for your support. If you care about helping local people everywhere to discover more about science, medicine and technology, then please help to save the Naked Scientists.

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3 responses to “Save the Naked Scientists – Update 3: the Pod Delusion

  1. Hey Kat. Just a quick note to say have a Merry Christmas and new year – I usually browse this when I’m at work ( in the quiet times ) and I’m off from Thursday, so I thought I’d get it in now. Catch up with you again next year !!!!

  2. from above … ” … Mick Rawsthorne was forced to admit that the Naked Scientists is “a very good programme”, and that it is based in a very science and technology-centric part of the country, Cambridge, he then claimed that the programme is not SUFFICIENTLY LOCAL. …”
    It did seem there were very few callers/texts/e-mails and like most programmes left to the last 5 mins… mainly due to the quantity of academic articles that were packed in!
    What I did notice, a lack of local respondents … a victim of the “internuts” international success and a lack of Science etc… related programming Internationally and locally..!
    Sir Patrick Moore raised the question of the “Sky at Night” ‘s
    scheduling… I also remember Prince Philip and Prof Eric Laithwaite educating and inspiring me… without the patronising attitudes that exist today… and the Open Universities wide ranging programmes… removing them from national TV was the biggest educational crime… ever!
    Citizen Squeak … ^..^

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