Wednesday, 18 February 2009



17 February 2009 12:28 PM

One Man and His Blog

I had forgotten until BBC Radio Oxford phoned me this morning that on February 17 1976 “One Man and His Dog” was broadcast for the very first time. It made Phil Drabble a household name – he was a bit over-dressed – and I was never convinced that he actually liked Border Collies – but he was great, the programme was great and it developed a huge following.

When I was asked to follow on from Phil on his retirement I was honoured. I didn’t even know that a new presenter was wanted, but by a stroke of luck Phil Drabble was making a series on conservation for the BBC and they came to my small farm, with my good friend Gordon Beningfield, the sadly departed countryside artist, to film a small segment for the programmes. For some reason the producer liked what I did for the programme and suggested I put my name forward to replace Phil:” you are a natural”, he said.

I was short-listed, screen tested and I got the job against some top-line experienced presenters. I loved it. I felt it was an honour – a true country programme with real people in some of the most beautiful parts of the country.

But oh dear, who was in charge of programming? A grey man with a ten o’clock shadow; someone called Mark Thompson. Sadly the man who now pays Jonathon Ross £16,000 a day didn’t like sheep dog trialling so he switched the programme to 3.00 on a Saturday afternoon to reduce viewing figures. It worked, even I didn’t watch it on a Saturday afternoon and viewing figures plummeted to the same number as Countryfile, so One Man and His Dog was axed (but Countryfile stayed on – very odd).

Fortunately I organised a protest and personally delivered thousands of letters to the Television Centre demanding the programme’s return. That in itself is interesting. The BBC received thousands of letters saying sack Jonathan Ross and they kept him – the BBC received thousands of letters saying keep me and One Man and His Dog, so they sacked me and dumbed the programme down to a pathetic parody of itself

The powers that be were appalled that I, a Vocal Yokel, had managed to drum up so much support – and all that without a degree – how shocking. But they got their revenge. It had been noted that I had stood for Parliament for the Referendum Party (saving my deposit) and took part in the various Countryside Rallies and Marches – consequently I was sacked for “my attitude” towards the dumbed down programme – which was rubbish – and more sinisterly – “your other activities”. “My other activities” – what have they got to do with presenting a sheep dog programme?

As far as the BBC is concerned I have been virtually persona non grata ever since – the highlight - being invited onto “Question Time” – the invitation being suddenly withdrawn two days before the programme, with no valid explanation – and it was never re-issued. Is that a record?

Interestingly David Bellamy also stood for the Referendum Party and took part in the Countryside Marches – he vanished from the BBC at the same time – there’s integrity and even handed public service broadcasting for you. Never mind – I suppose David Bellamy’s departure made room for that wonderful bunny and grey squirrel hugger Bill Oddie – urban, Oxbridge and Vice-President of the League Against Cruel Sports. Obviously my “other activities” were the wrong ones.

The good thing about the One Man and His Dog dramas is the fact that the BBC crew – who I got on extremely well with, presented me with a wonderful hand carved crook – which is still one of my most treasured possessions.

All was not lost because there is an even better programme than “One Man and His Dog” – it is called “Come Bye” – proper sheepdog trialling on Horse and Country Television (Sky Channel 280). Despite financial hiccups – we hope that last year’s World Championships will be on before too long.

That was a remarkable event, with 50,000 spectators and twenty-two competing countries.

The most astonishing aspect of the competition of course was the fact that although it was a World Championship held in Britain, it was totally ignored by the BBC.

I am afraid from all my experiences of the BBC from Question Time, Countryfile, One Man and His Dog, The One Show etc I can only conclude that the BBC is institutionally uninterested in the real countryside, the people who live and work in it, and the problems and the discrimination that they face day by day. All this of course breaks the BBC’s own Charter and the codes of conduct derived from it – and whose in charge? Yes, Mark Thompson – him again.

To view Robin Page's Original Article in The Mail LINK

No comments:

Post a Comment