by RAY FLEMING
THE first thing that BBC Controllers should be told when they are appointed is not to mess with iconic theme tunes. Mark Damazer, a relative newcomer to Radio 4, has decided that the UK Theme music which opens Radio 4 at 5.30am must be dispensed with in order to get the day off to a “pacy news briefing read by one of Radio 4*s team of newsreaders”. Clearly Mr Damazer has not checked on the defeat suffered by a previous Radio 4 Controller some years ago when he tried to get rid of the somnolent Sailing By music; there was a popular outcry and the piece can still be heard at the very end of Radio 4*s programmes each night. Then there was the long–fought battle over the World Service's decision to drop the march Lillibullero as the signature tune of its news bulletins. Goodness knows how this 17th century anti-Irish political song came to be used in the form of a military march to preface world news in the 20th century but it was instantly recognised everywhere. Eventually the World Service Controller got his way and Lillibullero is now heard only once a day and in an unpleasantly compressed form. UK Theme has been broadcast for almost thirty years now. It is a five-minutes compilation of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh folk tunes which the composer Fritz Spiegl orchestrated and conducted. I hear it most mornings (at 6.30am of course) and I must say that its charm has rather worn off for me. On the other hand an amazing array of supporters, led by Gordon Brown, Libby Purves and Jeremy Paxman, have rallied to its defence and insisted that it must be retained. It will be interesting to see whether Mr Damazer has to beat a tactical retreat. His reason for getting rid of UK Theme in order to make room for a “pacy news briefing” does not sound convincing. It may be that he is flexing his muscles for bigger changes elsewhere on Radio 4. Some people suspect he has his eye, or ear, on Barwick Green, the theme tune of The Archers. But he would be a brave man to tamper with that!