I was disappointed to hear that Keith Arthur has given up his role as the presenter of ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ on TalkSPORT radio although you cannot blame him. Bad enough his show had been slashed from 2 hours to just one hour, but to then reschedule it in the 5am graveyard slot was a step too far for Keith and it will be for many of its listeners, me included. Keith was right to go now because the only folk likely to listen or phone in at 5am are insomniacs and cranks. I won’t be one of them.
I tend to be a creature of habit and because my good lady sets her alarm for 6am during the week I regularly wake up at 6am on weekends. No complaints here, there’s fishing on the radio! I plug my Robbie into the Ipod, bung in some earphones, tune to talkSPORT and for the next two hours I can drift in and out of consciousness while listening to the show. And let’s be perfectly honest, if you want to drift back to the land of nod there are no better callers to send you there than the likes of ‘John from Enderby’.
In its 2-hour format the show was far too long for the actual content. I take my hat off to ‘Kendra’ but let us be realistic, it’s only the kids’ parents who want to hear the result of an under-9’s match on the Colour Pond. I certainly couldn’t give a damn and I doubt anyone else did. Keys and Gray don’t include a report on Armthorpe Miners Welfare Juniors football match with Rossington Rangers Colts in their show, now do they?
Then we have to listen to a report on what the Angling Projects folk have been up to which is usually nothing earth shattering. Hang on, that sounds really harsh and were I in there shoes I’d snatch every opportunity to gain airtime but it’s a parochial thing. Really, I don’t care that a few nice tench have been caught from a pond that’s well over 150 miles from where I live. Save that for the parish magazine.
Then it’s Tring Anglers time. Open day on the canal. Reservoir fishing well, etc.
I’ll not mention the real bores, but Jesus, some of them were dreadful. Only calling in to hear themselves on the wireless, I suspect. Look, I mean no disrespect to any of these enthusiastic contributors, each to their own, but is there any wonder I’d generally drift back to sleep?
A real highlight was when Geoff Cooper called in from Ireland. He breathed passion and enthusiasm but sadly that was all too infrequent. Same goes for when Greg Whitehead worked on the Angling Times. His reports were professional and informative.
Now please don’t for one second think I am criticising Keith or suggesting any of this is his fault. I would personally like to thank him for the sterling effort he made to establish the show and for becoming one of the longest serving broadcasters on the station. Sadly he could only play with the hand he was dealt.
Here he explains (skip to 0:28 secs)…
Keith Arthur is a consummate professional and has been a great servant to angling. I’ve listened to shows when the poor bloke has had no option but to talk solidly for the first half hour, ad breaks excepted, without taking a single call. That’s presumably because no-one had bothered to call in. I don’t know another man in angling who could realistically do that. Go on, you try it.
‘Just A Minute’ was based on the premise that professional entertainers could not talk for a whole minute without deviation, repetition or hesitation. Keith would be the undefeated world champion on that show! And it’s such a typically British trait that a number of folk who have probably never met him choose not to like Keith and freely broadcast their views on the Internet presumably because he’s enjoyed a fabulous degree of angling success both on the bank and off it and they are frankly consumed with jealousy.
Tell me this. Who else has broken into mainstream TV and radio and stayed there for well over a decade, week in and week out, whilst also holding down a weekly platform in Angling Times, or any other national newspaper for that matter? Seriously, anyone who knocks his success should take a long hard look in the mirror and ask what they’ve done to promote and further angling? Do you have a fraction of the knowledge Keith has amassed, ranging through coarse, match, specialist, game, sea and blue water fishing? Do you understand the politics of angling? What about antique tackle? If the answer is yes, then maybe you should be asking yourself why you don’t already have a radio and a TV show…
Not too long ago Keith invited me to join him in the studio for a broadcast. I asked whether talkSPORT would pay for my accommodation and his answer was apologetic. ‘Sorry Bob, the show doesn’t have a budget for stuff like that.’
So you tell me, how was he supposed to recruit studio guests? His show was put together on a shoestring, obviously. Do you think for one moment that the football shows are treated like that?
For Fisherman’s Blues to improve it needs professional contributors. If a guest is going to travel down to London for a show that will now be broadcast at 5am surely the very least he or she might expect is a hotel room and travelling expenses. And why can’t interviews with top anglers be done over the phone, in advance, during the week?
It also needs to take a leaf out of football’s book. If a Rooney has been indiscrete with a prostitute, or Suarez bites the head off a bat, Barton acts like a tosser, etc, etc, then it will be the subject of a lively phone in. How long can we stand by and sweep things under the carpet when high profile anglers get caught fishing in the closed season, using illegal shot, transporting livebaits to Ireland, sell stolen boats or are fishing without a license and so on?
Call it sensationalism or controversy for its own sake if you like but why shouldn’t the angling programme on a national radio station be in step with the other 167 hours of output in a typical week? Or would we rather be on a par with flower arranging and basket weaving! Let’s have a few topics that get us hot and bothered. Tell me, what other sport would stage an International competition, a major championship, a final of any sort, that didn’t have a broadcaster in attendance? We get short shrift from radio, make no mistake, and things need to change.
But is that going to happen? I don’t think so. In the short term we’re going to get more of the same old, same old. An aural parish magazine for the congregation of a village church in the Thames Valley. Until it is quietly put out to grass, that is, and the sport of angling will be further marginalised.
We lost the only fishing show on the Beeb’s Radio 5 (Dirty Tackle). ages ago. A programme that had more of a magazine feel and a budget but for some ridiculous reason was scheduled to clash with Keith’s slot. Which Oxbridge graduate came up with an idea like that!!!
Let us be under no illusions. Now Keith has gone the show is due a major makeover or it will die. Either way it’s a bit of a poisoned chalice for any budding presenter. TalkSPORT is not interested in funding a genuinely interesting angling show. We’re being pushed into a corner. Hung out to dry. The clocks go back in a week or two so tell me, who’s going to listen to, or more importantly phone up a show that’s broadcast 3 hours before it gets light. It’s crazy scheduling and pretty much doomed to fail.
So, there will be no more of this:
But (for a while) more of this:
Nigel Botherway is taking over the vacated seat during September while talkSPORT decides what will happen next.
It’s not exactly difficult to second guess that outcome, is it?
I like Nigel. If previous guest presenting slots are anything to go by he’ll litter the show with chats with some of his mates, providing they are prepared to get up at 5am with little prospect of being heard by anyone. I sincerely hope he makes a success of the show but in truth I fear he has a tougher job than King Canute. The tide has changed and I fear we shall soon be washed from the airwaves.