Following the BBC's detailed response to my letter (which has now exceeeded 139,000 views and still climbing!) I took a detailed look at their arguments and found that many of these simply don't add up.
Notably, the BBC hasn't addressed the core of my complaint, that the interview strayed from "Devil's Advocate" presentation of an opposing viewpoint into an all-out aggressive attack on opera, with the rather vague but heinous charges of "elitism" and "inaccessibility" presented as fact. The reply mainly provides evidence of a perception of elitism - which I acknowledged in my letter - without addressing the central issue that the HARDtalk broadcast implied strongly that this is more than a perception.
Looking at the quotations cited, it's very, very easy to see that the figures quoted are in fact saying "There is a perception and it is wrong". I really don't know how much easier this could be to get correct. There is some very selective use of statistics: more recent Arts Council reports show a decrease over the last few years in the number of people agreeing with the "not for people like me" statement. I could go on...
I am due to appear on Radio 4's "Feedback" programme this afternoon at 16:30 BST - in fact, the interview has already been recorded. As a result of appearing on Feedback I am precluded from taking the complaint any further, so I quickly put together a reply which I emailed to the BBC before the recording. The text is below.
To be honest I think that the adverse publicity from the BBC and the sheer amount of attention and debate which my letter have attracted are sufficient that no further action is needed on my part, but anyone dissatisfied with their response can write to the Editorial Complaints Unit at ECU@bbc.co.uk .
Owing to pressures of time - and in order not to bore readers with statistics - large portions of my reply have been reproduced from my previous blogpost, and I have not had chance to thoroughly index all of the sources I refer to. (Tracking down the sources cited in the BBC's response was somewhat of a challenge, due to their vague and incomplete citations, though I did locate most of them). You will will, however, see that I have added a number of additional comments. Anyone interested in seeing the statistics, please leave me a comment in the box below!
By the way, the John Tavener interview - which is so much better than the Hampson interview that it's difficult to believe it's from the same stable - can be found here.
Edit: The same BBC editor who previously replied to me has also now replied to my follow-up letter above. Text reproduced below:
"Dear Mr Robinson
Many thanks for this.
We do take constructive criticism seriously and I appreciate the time you’ve taken in your correspondence.
I’m sure HARDtalk doesn’t always get it totally right as that would be impossible when we do one every day. We really do have active de-briefs about them afterwards, but I fear we won’t agree on this one however! But if you are still not satisfied and did wish to take the matter further, the BBC does have an Editorial Complaints Unit you can approach. The address is below.
In the meantime please do keep watching and feel free to let me know what you think of another one in the future!
BC2 C6, Broadcast Centre, BBC Media Village, 201 Wood Lane, London,
Phone: 020 xxxx xxxx