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The BBC Accent

This article is from the Guardian, by Andrew Culf, Media Correspondent. Read the article and respond to the questions which follow.

BBC to be less cut-glass
The cut-glass accent of home counties Britain is to be banished from the air waves by the BBC in favour of more energetic and vigorous voices from the regions.

Parts of the BBC were lagging a "little behind the sound of the nation, beginning to sound a bit antique", Liz Forgan, managing director of network radio, said yesterday.

She told the Broadcasting Press Guild that listeners who would appreciate the music on Radio 3 were deterred by its presentation. "Radio 3 has not found a presentation style that is energetic enough and vigorous enough. I do not say it is bad, but many people have found it off-putting, and so unlike any other feature of English life."

Work had already begun on trying to make the network sound "less cliquey and alienating".

Ms Forgan, educated at Benenden School, Kent, and herself a model of received pronunciation, said she did not want presenters to sound like her.

Her remarks follow observations last year by John Birt, the BBC's director-general, who said Radio 4 was too heavily skewed to the southern home counties.

More regional accents have been introduced to Radio 4 in the last year, with Andy Kershaw presenting a Sunday morning travel magazine. Gerry Anderson, an accomplished Northern Ireland broadcaster, is to launch a live daily afternoon show on the network next month.

Ms Forgan said that she wanted to get away from the view once expressed by Sir Ian Trethowan, a former director-general, who had heard a Brummie voice on the radio, and said: "What is that sound doing on the BBC - get it off."

1. What values are implicit in the following phrases and what connotations do they have?

"cut glass", "banished", "more energetic and vigorous", "lagging ... behind", "cliquey and alienating", "educated at Benendon ... and a model of received home counties pronunciation."

2. Write an entry for the BBC Handbook outlining the Corporation's attitude towards accents and dialects in the speech of its presenters.

3. Write an advertisement, for a post in which accent is specifically mentioned, of
a) news presenter on BBC1 and
b) presenter for Radio 1

4. Comment on the following references to BBC English:

i. The first Director General of the BBC, Lord Reith, A Scot, himself believed in a broadcast English that would give no offence:

"the language, the speech and pronunciation ... that the announcers were taught to speak ... was the very best that we could do."

The establishment of a uniform BBC English was partly designed to promote a sense of impersonality and impartiality. It was felt that a sober recital would seem more accurate.

ii. The Advisory Committee on Spoken English, set up in 1926, wrote "We cherish the decision that our language will remain as we know it now ..." it had the bbelief: "It would appear ... that the higher a community climbs on the social scale, the greater is the degree of conformity in speech. Whenever a language is spoken, there is present in the minds of the speakers the notion that there is a "right way" of speaking it." Lord Reith's BBC was determined to promote this "right way."

iii. During the Second World War the BBC tried to use well-known personalities with local accents, such as the Yorkshireman Wilfred Pickles, as news readers. The experiment was abandoned after listeners complained.

[taken from the Story of English - Robert McCrum et al]

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