Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Anderson death: Derry man ruffled feathers in middle England

By Maureen Coleman

In a broadcasting career that spanned over 30 years, Gerry Anderson suffered one professional blip when he joined Radio 4 for a brief stint in 1994.

Although much-loved here, his laid-back presenting style on Anderson Country proved unpopular with the station's stuffy, middle-class English audiences.

Unused to Anderson's pithy wit and strong accent, opposition to this new afternoon show took on a life of its own, as angry listeners bombarded BBC switchboards and wrote letters to the Press to call for his axing.

The Sunday Telegraph lambasted the presenter in editorials. One carried the headline 'Anderson Country Must Go'.

Introducing Anderson to Radio 4 listeners coincided with a number of changes at the station, which made many listeners unhappy, including a shake-up of Gardener's Question Time and the banishing of cricket coverage to long wave. But most of the dissatisfaction was directed towards the Derry man, and after less than a year the BBC caved in and Anderson Country was scrapped.

At the time Chris Dunkley, presenter of complaints show Feedback, said: "We had an enormous postbag. People really were in high dudgeon about it. They were saying stop treating us as a social experiment. We've heard John Birt saying that the BBC mustn't super-serve the middle classes. But just leave us Radio 4. They objected to the patronising tone that they should accept something different when they are used to listening to more than just pap."

Michael Green, controller of Radio 4, said the BBC had learned lessons from the experiment.

"This past year has shown us that presenting this kind of programme five days a week is too heavy a burden for any one person," he said. The axing of the Radio 4 show was not just a career low-point for Anderson, but a personal one that shocked and saddened him.

However, in his inimitable style, Anderson put the experience behind him and returned to Northern Ireland to rebuild his career.

Belfast Telegraph

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