Published on 2 Nov 2012 Sections , ,

Danny Baker and a history of parting rants

After radio presenter Danny Baker’s on-air rant at the BBC bosses who dropped his show, Channel 4 News looks at other noisy departures.

BBC London presenter Danny Baker said he hoped the decision-makers

After learning his radio show on BBC London was being axed, Mr Baker launched a tirade aimed at his managers.

“We dwell amid pinheaded weasels who know only timid, the generic and the abacus,” the presenter told listeners.

The 55-year-old blasted station chiefs, complained about the pay his co-hosts were given and said he hoped the decision-makers “choked” on their abacus beads.

He used his entire two-hour programme to sound off about the decision, which he blamed on cost-cutting, between records beginning appropriately enough with Queen’s Radio Gaga.

He said: “We don’t want to leave but we’re being told to leave by people we’ve never met who don’t listen to the show and certainly don’t listen to you.

“We’re laughing on the outside but crying on the inside. The station has cancelled the show.”

And Baker, due to be honoured with a top broadcasting award in only a few days, added: “By the way, nice way to treat a bloke who had cancer”, referring to the illness he was treated for two years previously.

Figures such as comic Ross Noble and broadcaster Stephen Fry were among those who criticised the decision. And Rob Brydon said sarcastically: “Glad that BBC are axing Danny Baker’s daily radio show. I’ve had it up to here with his wit, warmth and originality.”

‘Casual conversation’

Mr Baker said he had been told not to say anything about the programme being cancelled and had not been told directly by the BBC, finding out about the decision to axe the show as a result of a “casual conversation”.

Baker said station chiefs did not understand how important the programme is for the community of London.

“This is the best show I’ll ever do, but that is apparently not the point – it’s about kow-towing to the reams of middle management,” he said.

Confirming his departure from the afternoon show on BBC London 94.9, a spokeswoman for the corporation said Baker would leave at the end of the year, but Baker indicated that Thursday’s programme would be his last.

“Danny’s still very much part of the BBC with his Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 5 Live and we’re currently in discussions with him about options for a weekly programme,” she added.

But Baker immediately hit back with a message on Twitter: “BBC London and I are NOT ‘in discussion’ about a new weekly show. In fact, I haven’t heard a single word from them at all.”

Baker believed the style of his BBC London show contributed to its downfall.

“The freedom of this show itself was threatening to middle management,” he said. “They didn’t get it.”

Baker also criticised the decision on Twitter, telling his followers: “BBC asked me not to say anything just yet about axing best show on British radio. Why? Because it’s embarrassing? Because they’ll look bad?”

Former foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe's resignation speech

A history of rants

Other presenters who have ranted about their bosses on the radio include Chris Moyles who complained last year that he had not been paid for his appearances on Radio 1’s breakfast show.

And in 1993 Dave Lee Travis used his programme to quit on air, when he said he was unhappy about changes to the same station.

And on-air resignations are not exclusive to radio. After becoming one victim of a previous round of BBC cost-cutting, veteran BBC regional news anchor Alan Towers told viewers: “When I first joined the corporation, it was led by giants. Now it is being led by pygmies in grey suits wearing blindfolds.”

Away from the media, the most famous resignation speech was probably Sir Geoffrey Howe’s after his departure from Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet in 1990.

Delivered to a packed Commons, his withering and devastating critique of Thatcher’s style of government set off a spiral of events that led to the prime minister’s own resignation weeks later. He complained the then PM was undermining efforts to negotiate with European partners over closer European integration.

“It’s rather like sending your leading batsmen to the crease only to find as the first balls are bowled that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.”

Others deliver their message in writing. Former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith quit in an open letter to the New York Times, describing the working environment as “toxic and destructive”.

Freelance journalist Richard Peppiatt, signed-off from his shifts at the Daily Star with a 1,600-word resignation letter to the newspaper’s owner Richard Desmond.

Angry at the increasingly Islamophobic tone of some of the newspapers stories, Mr Peppiatt delivered a colourful account of his time at the paper, drawing attention to the “inciteful over insightful language” used and claiming that some stories bore little relation to the truth.

And possibly the prize for the most inventive resignation was one of Richard Desmond’s more short-lived scribes. On hearing that the media boss had acquired the Daily Express, journalist Stephen Pollard wrote this seemingly innocent leader column with a hidden message.

In 2011, Richard Peppiatt, a freelance journalist doing regular shifts at the Daily Star, wrote to the paper’s owner “resigning” from his role. He tells Channel 4 News about how his letter created such a sensation.

In a 1,600 word criticism, Peppiatt claimed the paper was on a downward spiral. He memorably told Desmond he saw “a cascade of s*** pirouetting from your penthouse office, caking each layer of management, splattering all in between”.

He described a series of stories that he claimed that were more fiction than fact. “‘Michael Jackson to attend Jade Goody’s funeral’. (He didn’t.) ‘Robbie pops ‘pill at heroes concert’. (He didn’t either.) ‘Matt Lucas on suicide watch’. (He wasn’t.) ‘Jordan turns to Buddha.’ (She might have, but I doubt it.),” he wrote.

“I know showbiz is the sand on which your readership is built. And while I didn’t write tittle-tattle dreaming of Pulitzers, I never knew I’d fear a Booker Prize nomination instead.”

Almost two years on from his letter, and Mr Peppiatt said writing the letter felt “cathartic”, despite the abuse that he had received in the immediate aftermath.

“I could have just resigned in a normal manner and wouldn’t have actually changed anything,” he said. “I was particularly angered about the Islamophobia and wanted to create a sensation of my own.”

Mr Peppiatt said that in hindsight he is happy with “the gamble” he took, but he added that a stunning sign-off is not for everyone. “You have to have very broad shoulders and be very thick-skinned. Resigning in that way is like swinging the first punch. You’ve go to expect some back.”

Now a broadcaster and the creator of a comedy show on tabloid journalism that is touring the country, Mr Peppiatt said his gamble paid off and he is confident that it will for Danny Baker. “I am sure that Danny Baker is in a more financially secure position than I was. He’ll be fine.”

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