"Archers villain prompts farmyard slip by Ford"
by Bill Frost
Many Radio 4 listeners rang the BBC yesterday to complain at Anna
Ford's use of a vulgar term of abuse during the Today programme.
The presenter, who later apologised for the slip, described Simon
Pemberton, heartless and grasping villain of Radio 4's The Archers,
as "rather a shit" for trying to evict his tenants, the
Grundys, from their farm. Although several fans of the radio serial
telephoned to support Ms. Ford's blunt verdict on the so-called
Borchester Bounder, about 40 callers expressed anger at her gaffe.
The BBC switchboard got its first call shortly after 8:25 am when
Ms. Ford was discussing Pemberton's attempt to banish the Grundys
from their home with spokesmen from the Country Landowners' Association
and the Tenant Farmers' Association. The Borchester Bounder "does
seem rather a shit, he's a bit ruthless, shouldn't he be counselled?"
Ms Ford, 53, came out of the studio at the end of the programme
to face a "mild dressing down" from production staff for
"letting her heart rule her head," according to one insider.
The broadcaster, who probably spoke for a legion of Radio 4 listeners
who back the beleaguered Grundys against their cruel landlord, said:
"I realise it was an unfortunate slip of the tongue."
A BBC spokesman said: "We had a number of complaints. I think
a lot came from non-metropolitan listeners who are not used to hearing
this sort of language. It is the sort of thing that can happen on
live radio." Jon Barton, Editor of Today, also expressed
regret: "This is a long, live programme and occasionally things
do slip out."
Pemberton played by Peter Wingfield carved
an unenviable reputation for greed, coldness and politically incorrect
attitudes towards women and social inferiors even before issuing
the Grundys with a notice to quit. Mr. Wingfield was in Canada filming
an episode of the science fiction series Highlander.
A spokeswoman for his agents said: "He may be unpopular in
this country as Simon Pemberton but he has lots of admirers abroad
for the role in Highlander. There are Peter Wingfield fan
clubs in Canada and France."
Peter Tewkesbury, a long-time listener, acknowledged that the line
between art and reality had been blurred by Simon Pemberton's arrival.