The Australian national broadcaster has long been a beacon in the literary world for its daily Book Show, hosted by the extraordinary presenter Ramona Koval.
ABC Radio National has now announced plans to replace the hour-long daily show focused on books alone to a mixed arts/culture/books format, which will reduce the time devoted to writers and writing.
The outcry down under has been vociferous ever since star novelist Christos Tsiolkas (author of the highly successful 2008 novel The Slap) protested on Crikey of his “strong dismay” at this “dumbing-down."
Tsiolkas's intervention, via an open letter to the ABC board on Sept. 20, was timed for maximum effect, the Australian reports, as ABC1 is promoting the Oct. 6 premiere of a television adaptation of his award-winning novel, which has sold 800,000 copies worldwide.
Koval has indicated that she is considering her options, and listeners from across the country have been deluging ABC, other media, and Koval herself with messages of appreciation and protest.
We here in Canada are all too familiar with assaults on cultural programming from our own national broadcaster. This probably isn’t the time to complain about the CBC, with the broadcaster in the government’s sights for funding cuts, and I am the last person to complain about the tremendous role the CBC is playing in promoting Canadian music and musicians.
Radio is good at music, certainly, but music isn’t the only thing radio is good at. So I will take this opportunity to point to the spectacular example that Australia’s Book Show has set in books coverage on radio – and to lament that fact that we don’t have anything that comes even close to daily books coverage here in Canada.
© Linda Leith 2011
[This post appeared on the Globe Books blog In Other Words on Monday, October 3rd, 2011.]