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Julian Lloyd Webber, 71, has been left fuming over the BBC’s treatment of musicians under its employ. The musician and broadcaster, who is also the younger brother of the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, described the organisation’s actions as “lamentable” and questioned why members of the public are still expected to pay the license fee.
Julian, who is the founder of the In Harmony music education programme, announced: “The BBC’s long-term downgrading of classical music has finally come under public scrutiny.
He went on to explain that this was “because of a Twitterstorm around its lamentable treatment of its own musicians and the way it chose to deliver its latest bombshells.”
The musician then referenced a tweet from Sakari Oramo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor, which read: “I am disgusted by the @BBC announcements today.
“The axing of @BBCSingers is an action of blatant vandalism. The ‘voluntary’ redundancy affecting @BBCSO @BBCPhilharmonic @BBCCO a slap to the face of Britain’s orchestra culture and the devoted work of our excellent musicians.”
The reaction, and subsequent public letter to the BBC supported and shared by other musicians, came after it was announced on March 7 that the BBC had decided to axe BBC Singers, its historic chamber choir that is nearly one century old.
In addition to the shock decision, the organisation also said it would see a 20 per cent reduction in salaried posts in its three English orchestras.
“The manner of the way these decisions are being reached and announced has rebounded badly on the BBC, while the corporate-speak surrounding them has descended to fresh nadirs of cynical jargon,” Julian continued in his opinion piece for Radio Times.
The musician went on to discuss the leaked letter from two co-directors of the BBC Singers to the BBC Board chair Richard Sharp, which read: “A culture of fear and paranoia has been created as seismic decisions on the corporation’s future are taken at speed without any proper analysis or meaningful consultation.”
Meanwhile, the BBC’s chief content officer insisted: “This new strategy is bold, ambitious, and good for the sector and for audiences who love classical music.”
“What has happened to our nation’s beloved BBC – the organisation that has been responsible for some of the greatest classical music broadcasts in history?” Julian asked.
“(It’s ridiculous to only mention two, but Ken Russell’s magnificent Monitor films on Elgar and Delius suddenly sprang into my mind). That BBC no longer exists.
“The dereliction of its core principles has happened stealthily, over many years and with a lack of transparency that has eroded trust both inside and outside the organisation.”
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“Quite rightly, profound questions are now being asked as to what, if anything, the BBC still stands for,” he added.
“Has it given up any pretence of public service broadcasting? And, if so, why does it continue to receive our licence fees?”
Julian bleakly concluded by sharing his fears that there would soon be “no live classical music left” to listen to.
A BBC spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Since 1922 the BBC has been an integral part of the classical music ecology in this country and abroad. For us to continue to be a leading force in the industry we need to modernise, making some necessary and difficult changes to the way we operate, and many models have been considered over the past few months.
“Whilst some may disagree with the tough decisions we’ve had to make in what are financially challenging times, we have developed the classical strategy carefully and diligently. We know this is a hugely tough time for everyone impacted.
“We will continue to do all we can to support those affected by these changes and to engage with the industry, and we are in consultation with the Musicians’ Union.”
His complaints come at a turbulent time for the BBC, which is already under scrutiny, due to rows over its license fee and its strict impartiality rules.
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker sparked controversy recently when he was suspended by the BBC for comments he made on social media.
The broadcaster ended up being on the receiving end of international criticism following the decision, which was made after the former England striker made comments criticising the government’s new asylum seeker policy.
Following his tweet, which was posted a couple of weeks ago, the BBC responded by asking him to “step back” from the show that weekend due to “breaching guidelines”, before it was announced he would be returning the following weekend.
Read the full story in the latest issue of Radio Times.
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