"Simon isn't Bad. He's just misunderstood."
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"Archers villain prompts farmyard slip by Ford"
by Bill Frost
The Times
? 1997

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?" she suggested.

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.

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