Monday, 23 September 2013

In which I set up a new blog

Apologies for the light blogging at the moment - I am preparing for some notoriously nasty professional exams and don't have a vast amount of spare time.

I hope to update in full once the exams are out of the way (in October), but I can briefly say that the aftershocks of my little letter have continued to some extent - the now-notorious interview formed the subject of Opera magazine's September issue editorial, and I was invited onto BBC Radio 4's Feedback programme to talk about it.  Only about 5 minutes of my interview were used, but I think the clip which was used is a fair summary of the main points I tried to make.

In an unexpected turn of events, I was also invited to contribute to an issue of Time Out London and so I have written a little bit about London's amateur orchestras, which are something I've been involved with for a few years now.  The issue is released tomorrow (24 September), so please let me know what you think!

A number of people have encouraged me to continue writing, so I have set up another blog with a wider remit than simply writing sarcastic letters to the media.  I hope to keep this blog going whenever something in the news irks me sufficiently - whether about music or otherwise - but in the meantime, please follow my other writings!

Friday, 9 August 2013

In which I reply to the BBC's reply to my reply to the interview

Following the BBC's detailed response to my letter (which has now exceeeded 139,000 views and still climbing!) I took a detailed look at their arguments and found that many of these simply don't add up.

Notably, the BBC hasn't addressed the core of my complaint, that the interview strayed from "Devil's Advocate" presentation of an opposing viewpoint into an all-out aggressive attack on opera, with the rather vague but heinous charges of "elitism" and "inaccessibility" presented as fact.  The reply mainly provides evidence of a perception of elitism - which I acknowledged in my letter - without addressing the central issue that the HARDtalk broadcast implied strongly that this is more than a perception.

Looking at the quotations cited, it's very, very easy to see that the figures quoted are in fact saying "There is a perception and it is wrong".  I really don't know how much easier this could be to get correct.  There is some very selective use of statistics: more recent Arts Council reports show a decrease over the last few years in the number of people agreeing with the "not for people like me" statement.  I could go on...

I am due to appear on Radio 4's "Feedback" programme this afternoon at 16:30 BST - in fact, the interview has already been recorded.  As a result of appearing on Feedback I am precluded from taking the complaint any further, so I quickly put together a reply which I emailed to the BBC before the recording.  The text is below.

To be honest I think that the adverse publicity from the BBC and the sheer amount of attention and debate which my letter have attracted are sufficient that no further action is needed on my part, but anyone dissatisfied with their response can write to the Editorial Complaints Unit at .

Owing to pressures of time - and in order not to bore readers with statistics - large portions of my reply have been reproduced from my previous blogpost, and I have not had chance to thoroughly index all of the sources I refer to.  (Tracking down the sources cited in the BBC's response was somewhat of a challenge, due to their vague and incomplete citations, though I did locate most of them).  You will will, however, see that I have added a number of additional comments.  Anyone interested in seeing the statistics, please leave me a comment in the box below!

By the way, the John Tavener interview - which is so much better than the Hampson interview that it's difficult to believe it's from the same stable - can be found here.

Edit: The same BBC editor who previously replied to me has also now replied to my follow-up letter above.  Text reproduced below:

"Dear Mr Robinson

Many thanks for this.

We do take constructive criticism seriously and I appreciate the time you’ve taken in your correspondence.

I’m sure HARDtalk doesn’t always get it totally right as that would be impossible when we do one every day.  We really do have active de-briefs about them afterwards, but I fear we won’t agree on this one however! But if you are still not satisfied and did wish to take the matter further, the BBC does have an Editorial Complaints Unit you can approach. The address is below.

In the meantime please do keep watching and feel free to let me know what you think of another one in the future!

Best wishes

BC2 C6, Broadcast Centre, BBC Media Village, 201 Wood Lane, London,
W12 7TP
Phone:   020 xxxx xxxx

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

In which I share a few thoughts on the BBC's reply

A fuller, more detailed response will follow at some point later - I am quite busy at the moment! - but a few initial thoughts are below.  As I'm sure you can see, this is really much more of a complex issue than the simple, adversarial black-and-white approach taken in this interview would allow.   Of course, a 25-minute programme can't go into quite as much depth, perhaps, but there are ways of maintaining the confrontational approach without insulting the interviewee, belittling the real efforts being carried out by opera companies, and leading the viewer to jump to false assumptions.

First, I'd like to say that I'm very impressed that the BBC took the time to send me such a detailed reply, rather than simply ignoring my letter or issuing a rather bland statement.  However, I'm far from convinced by their reasoning here, and the central issue remains: that of the general tone and impression given by the interview.

I'm fully aware of the format of the Hard Talk programme, and it appears that Hampson was too. However, the heart of my complaint was that - even bearing that in mind - the tone of the questioning was unduly aggressive and came across as poorly-prepared and ignorant.  It does not seem to me that the BBC has engaged with this point.

There is a fine line between confrontational interviewing (which is the signature style of this particular show) and outright aggression, and here my feeling is that the balance went too far in the direction of aggression. "Devil's Advocate" interviewing style is a legitimate tactic. However, my perception here (and one shared by an overwhelming number of those who have written to me after reading my letter and viewing the interview) is that in this case the tone went beyond that and strayed into presenting matters of perception and opinion - which we can argue about ad infinitum - as objective truth. For instance, the opening piece to camera already, to me, invites the viewer to assume that opera is disproportionately expensive and unpopular, and that little can be done to widen its appeal. Elitism and expense are presented as matters of fact. This seems to be rather too subjective -and important - a matter to generalise and trivialise in such a way.

As many have noted (and indeed I noted in my letter) there are plenty of valid questions here, and hiding somewhere in that show was a good interview. Opera does face an image problem, that's for sure. However, I think I speak for many involved in music when I say that at least part of the problem comes from these cliches being brought up by the media time and time again, so that the problem becomes self-fulfilling.

As I believe I noted elsewhere, I certainly don't expect interviewees to be invited in for a cosy chat where everyone agrees on everything. That teaches us nothing. But equally, an interview only works if there is a genuine two-way discussion. Here, Montague clearly had her "lines to take" and was determined to get through them no matter what Hampson said. For example, after Hampson gives a very thoughtful response on demographics, Montague leaps in with words along the lines of "ah yes, but it's still just a bunch of old rich people going to see their friends, isn't it?" - demonstrating a complete lack of interest in the points he just made.

So what of the other points in the BBC's response? I don't have time to go into detail on every single point right now, but I find it pretty unconvincing, despite its length and the fact that at first glance it seems pretty thorough.

Take, for example, the various quotations cited in support of the existence of an image problem. If anything, these suggest less that "opera IS elitist", more that opera directors, managers etc. are aware that there is a perception of opera as elitist which they need to work to dispel, as well as working to ensure that the public subsidy is put to good use.

This is not exactly surprising. Given the importance of their role I would actually be rather worried if they weren't aware of the need to work hard to dispel the image problem and to ensure they do as much as possible to attract the wider public - to do nothing would be complacent.  If you look up the Terry Gilliam quotation in context, it's clear that he's actually saying "I thought opera was elitist, then I turned up to do Faust at ENO and discovered I was wrong."  This is even pretty clear from the snippet quoted in the BBC email.  The reference to suits of armour is from a lighthearted comment where Gilliam is basically saying "I don't care what people wear as long as they come to see my opera".  Similarly, the quotes from ENO and WNO are telling people "don't be afraid - it's not stuffy and incomprehensible. Come along and try it out!"

Does this acknowledge an image problem? Yes, and I think we are all aware that negative perceptions exist. I didn't deny that in my letter.  But does it also suggest that opera companies are working hard to dispel that? I would argue that it does. Yet the BBC premise seems to effectively be "no, they're not". This is incompatible with the evidence.

What about ticket pricing? To take one example: "it is true that there is a wide range of ticket prices available. However, it is a fact that 60% of tickets at the Royal Opera House remain above £40."  Well, yes; 100 percent minus 40 percent is 60 percent; I can do arithmetic. But the fact remains that there is a very significant proportion of tickets which fall in a price range comparable to, or less than, other forms of entertainment. Shouldn't we be giving the opera credit for this?

To take another point, "The average price to attend the New York Metropolitan Opera this year will be $156."  Without a full breakdown of the distribution of ticket price ranges, the numbers in each range, and any discounts available, this is meaningless. The "average" price for Olympic medal athletic sessions last year was about £230, but that figure is skewed by the 20% of tickets over £400: in actual fact plenty of tickets were available at much, much lower prices  ( and

Of course it would be good to lower average prices across the board, but to pretend - as was effectively the case in this interview - that this is a problem unique to opera seems rather unfair.

Touching on a few other points:

Surely, as I alluded to in my original letter, the age issue is at least in part inevitable due to the demographic tendency in Western societies towards an ageing population? Moreover, articles bemoaning the high average age of opera (and indeed theatre) audiences are nothing new - a friend has sent me links to articles from 20 years ago (which I will try to share later) saying basically the same thing. Unless these audiences are exceptionally long-lived or have access to an elixir of youth, we have to conclude that audiences are being replenished somehow. Not that we should be complacent about it, of course, but perhaps the problem is overstated.

What about attendance figures? "According to Arts Council statistics from 2009-10, 8.3% of adults in the UK had attended an opera, compared to 16.5% who had attended a classical music concert or recital, and 32.5% who had attended a play." This is not entirely unexpected: there are far, far fewer locations in the UK where opera is performed on a regular basis than there are for other forms of classical music or theatre. This also fails to take into account viewing figures for outdoor screenings, cinema broadcasts, live streams online, and radio transmissions, which are opening opera up to ever wider potential audiences. I don't know if any research has been done on that but seem to recall the ROH saying that their cinema viewing figures were far in excess of attendance at the house itself, which is pretty impressive. Can anyone enlighten me here?

Finally, just a note on one of the later comments from the BBC.  "Our audience is both international and domestic, and not just the culturally knowledgeable in the UK. Many of them will never have been to an opera and some of them may well never have heard of the art form." Ask yourself this: if you had never been to an opera, or had never heard of it before, what impression would you take away from this interview? Would you be tempted to attend? To me the prevailing tone was overwhelmingly negative and I would argue that it would deter people from discovering opera, so worsening the precise problem which Hampson was given such a hard time about. Does this square with the BBC's remit to educate and inform?

Monday, 5 August 2013

In which I receive a response from the BBC

I have just received a detailed reply from the BBC's  Editor of News Features.  I haven't considered this in depth as yet, but will post my thoughts later.  In the meantime, here is the text of their reply (edited to protect the identity of the person at the BBC who contacted me):

"Dear Mr Robinson,

Many thanks for your feedback on the HARDtalk programme in which Sarah Montague interviewed Thomas Hampson which we received on Friday August 2nd, and which was posted online with Mr Lebrecht on 1st August.

I’m sorry that you clearly didn’t appreciate this programme.

First of all I think it’s important that I explain the format of HARDtalk. It is, as the name suggests, a challenging interview format, where guests are questioned in detail about their role, view point or actions. It should be a robust and at times provocative interview backed up by detailed evidence and research.  Its audience is both domestic (on BBC2 and the News Channel) and international; it is watched and listened to by many millions of people around the world on BBC World News and World Service Radio. We therefore have to be relevant to our audience whether they be in London or Jakarta. It is a programme of international renown for the quality and detail of its research, and the ability of its highly qualified presenters.

With that background explained I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the points in your letter and to explain the rationale for the questions we put to Mr Hampson.

In this case, as you mention in your opening paragraphs, questions of subsidies, demographics and appeal have long been asked of opera and are ‘valid questions’ for the industry. As you also acknowledge, opera has an ‘image problem’, which includes a notion that it is elitist. This is not a just an isolated view put to Mr Hampson by Sarah Montague, but a question that occupies the international opera establishment. In 2011, Lyndon Terracini, Opera Australia Artistic Director, spoke about the need for opera to avoid being seen as elitist. He said:

‘If any arts organisation is receiving $20 million per year in funding from government, then it is not acceptable in a democratic society for that company to only play to a small number of people who are members of an elitist club. In fact any arts organisation which is in receipt of public funds is obliged to justify that funding by doing its utmost to be inclusive of all members of society’.[PEGGY GLANVILLE-HICKS ADDRESS: LYNDON TERRACINI, 2011]

The Arts Council England 2008 report on patterns of attendance in the arts found that there continued to be psychological barriers to people attending arts events (including opera). They said:

‘…some people feel uncomfortable attending arts events and do not perceive arts attendance as an accessible or appropriate lifestyle choice. Qualitative research supports this argument. The arts debate, the Arts Council’s first public value inquiry, found a strong sense among many members of the public of being excluded from something they would like to be able to access, a belief that certain kinds of arts experiences were not for “people like me”’. [Arts Council Report, 2008]

The Arts Council concluded in the report that, ‘The importance of social status in influencing levels of arts attendance suggests that arts venues need to continue to work to be welcoming and accessible to a wide range of people.’

At the start of the interview Mr Hampson acknowledged that he believes opera is relevant to people of all walks of life and, therefore, we rightly put to him the perceptions of opera as ‘elitist’. This is well documented; for example, John Berry, English National Opera’s artistic director, who said opera novices should not be afraid to take the plunge. "There are lots of people who are put off by the way opera is presented - they think it’s too stuffy, too posh, too expensive ‘and from the Welsh National Opera website: ‘Many people think its elitist, too expensive, boring, outdated, you have to dress up for it and incomprehensible’. Terry Gilliam, the director and Monty Python member, staged his first opera at the ENO last year and joked that he would be happy for audience members to turn up in suits of armour. "I thought opera was for a bunch of old farts - the bourgeoisie in dinner jackets. I thought it was an art form for the rich and successful and almost dead". And Mr Hampson said in the interview that the ‘casual entrance to opera is limited’. This was a valid area for intelligent discussion and an issue which is clearly being addressed by those within the international opera establishment.

To address your point about our questions regarding the high cost of opera; as you say in your letter, opera is a very expensive art form to produce because of large casts, choruses and orchestras, performances and rehearsal facilities, sets, costumes and lighting. The total subsidy given by the Arts Council England to the Royal Opera House in 2012-13 was £25,208,100. This is nearly ten million pounds more than was awarded to the Royal Shakespeare Company (£15,675,270), which you suggest, in your fourth paragraph, to be a comparable organisation in terms of running costs. And while this subsidy may not be expensive in terms of cost per member of the population, it is considerably larger than the funding provided by the Arts Council England to other arts organisations. It is also an issue which Mr Hampson raises in this interview and is a wholly valid area for discussion.

In terms of ticket pricing, it is true that there is a wide range of ticket prices available. However, it is a fact that 60% of tickets at the Royal Opera House remain above £40. The average price to attend the New York Metropolitan Opera this year will be $156. A similar question about pricing would also be asked of a sports personality or another performer in an area where ticket prices are high, if they were to appear on HARDtalk.

In terms of the age of opera attendees, you say that 40% of the audience attending the Royal Opera House in 2011/12 are aged 45 or younger.  This still leaves 60% of the audience at 45 or older. In 2011, the average age of a subscriber to the New York Metropolitan Opera was 64.8, with the average age of all attendees at 57.7. The age demographic of those attending opera is of concern to those inside the opera establishment. For example, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Peter Gelb, said in an interview in 2011 that he was concerned about the survival of opera:

What fuels me is the fear of the art form not surviving. To think that an art form or an institution like this is immune to the possibility of extinction would be a big mistake. I have to do everything in my power to make it interesting in an environment in which arts education is virtually non-existent. How can we possibly keep this thing going when the audience at the Met was literally dying of old age?’ [CNN Money Interview, 2011]

According to Opera Australia figures, during their Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour season, a ‘bold gesture to take opera beyond the theatre’, 42% of their audiences were over 55 and 59% had an income of more than $100,000 Australian dollars.

There was no suggestion during the interview that the audience should be below a certain age to attend an opera, but as the figures above demonstrate, the demographics of opera attendance continues to exercise the industry. This was clearly a legitimate area of discussion. Indeed much of Mr Hampson’s work outside performing focuses on using technology to open up music and opera to wider audiences and this, therefore, was an area we wanted to discuss with him, and to ask him why he feels this is important. 

In terms of the number of people who attend opera, less than 5% of those surveyed in the  Department for Culture, Media and Sport ‘Taking Part – Statistical Release’ had attended an opera in the year 2011-12, compared to more than  a fifth of respondents who  had attended a ‘play or drama’. According to Arts Council statistics from 2009-10, 8.3% of adults in the UK had attended an opera, compared to 16.5% who had attended a classical music concert or recital, and 32.5% who had attended a play. The 2008 Arts Council England Report separates arts attendees into different groups according to their engagement with arts, from ‘little if any’ to ‘enthusiastic’ engagement. Of those people who were classed as ‘enthusiastic attenders’ of the arts, 64% had not been to an opera in the past year. Similarly in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts found that 2% of the adult population had attended opera in the last year, rising to 4.9% of adults who watched or listened to a recorded or broadcast performance. These figures are still low compared to participation in other forms of art – for example, in comparison the NEA report found that 20.8% attended performing arts festivals.  Mr Hampson is vocal about his belief that opera is relevant to everyone and, therefore, it was justified to ask him questions about the level of opera attendance.

The section of the interview that focused on understanding the context of opera performances stemmed from Mr Hampson’s writings on ‘informed performances’. This is a topic that he feels strongly about and has spoken on regularly in the media. We were seeking to identify and clarify what he meant by an ‘informed performance’ and explore the practical consequences of this idea.

As you can see from this our research is as detailed and in depth as I would always expect for a HARDtalk interview. Our evidence is drawn from a wide range of international bodies and expert comment.  It is not just UK focussed which much of your complaint seems to be drawn from. This is because as I outlined from the start, our audience is both international and domestic, and not just the culturally knowledgeable in the UK.  Many of them will never have been to an opera and some of them may well never have heard of the art form.  Being relevant to all our audience is always a difficult balance, and for this reason the interview may have been more broad brush than you, as someone clearly very involved in opera, would have wanted. I’m sorry that this disappointed you but I hope that you can understand why the approach we took was the right one for our diverse audience.  

However you say in your last paragraph that ‘it would be a breath of fresh air if a TV broadcast, just once, could act as a spirited advocate for the arts…’. That is not our role. We do not act as an advocate for any person, profession or organisation – we seek to challenge and explore topics that surround and concern our interviewees. If we did not address the ‘valid questions’ that continue to be relevant to opera we would also be open to accusations of bias. Our role as you also say is to ’inform and educate’ and in the HARDtalk  interview with Mr Hampson I would robustly defend that that is what we did. 

Our audience expects guests to be challenged whichever profession they are from and our interview style is the same whether we are interviewing a politician, businessman or cultural figure.  The style of HARDtalk is, as I have said robust; it should never be either hostile or aggressive as you suggest in your letter. In watching this episode again I cannot accept that either is an accurate description of Sarah Montague’s mode of questioning.

Once again, I am sorry that you did not enjoy this programme. We do take all audience feedback seriously as I hope I have demonstrated in my reply. I do hope you keep watching HARDtalk, and indeed  you may be interested in watching today’s edition with Sir John Tavener for example, which I think was a compelling and revealing interview which you will enjoy.

Yours sincerely


(xxxxx)| Editor| BBC TV News Features
Zone D, Level 3, Portland Place London W1A 1AA

Friday, 2 August 2013

In which I become a journalist

It's a small world.  Only a few hours after my letter began to spread on Facebook, I was contacted by Alexandra Coghlan, who turns out to be a friend of a friend, asking whether my letter could be reposted on The Arts Desk.  Although really quite astonished, I said yes, and (at 101,000 views of my letter so far) here we are - I suppose this makes me a freelance journalist now?

In which Alex responds to some of the feedback he's received

Well, what a difference a day makes!

Since I first posted my letter on my Facebook page, it has been shared so many times I've lost count.  My Facebook and Twitter accounts have been going crazy with notifications.  And my scribd page has now exceeded 86,000 views.

Inevitably, I've received some feedback - though not, as yet, from the BBC - and thought I would respond here to a few of the points which have been raised.  I've been very, very impressed at the civility of the comments I've received from those who disagree, and it's so satisfying to learn that it is possible to have a debate on the Internet without descending into trolling!

In no particular order, here are a few quick follow-up points.

  • I don't in any way intend to attack the BBC as a whole.  Radio 3, Radio 4 and BBC4 are absolutely fantastic, on the whole, and the Proms concerts are an institution which I would defend to my last breath.  My ire is reserved purely for coverage which stoops to relying on stereotypes which were perhaps never true and which certainly aren't any more, and sadly in my experience this is all-too-commonly found in television coverage as opposed to radio coverage.
  • The BBC has shown that it can produce absolutely fantastic arts broadcasts - Antonio Pappano's 1-hour film on Tosca which screened on BBC2 at New Year a couple of years ago, for instance, approached the viewer as an intelligent, interested adult who wanted to know about the history and plot of the opera, and managed all of this without feeling the need to mention any of this ridiculous social stigma which has built up.  The general high quality of broadcasting makes it all the more disappointing when a nationally-respected news presenter relies on such ridiculous, outdated generalisations in so public a forum.
  • In no way do I intend to imply that opera is beyond reproach or debate.  There are some very valuable discussions to be had here.  I also recognise that the "Devil's Advocate" interviewing style is a legitimate tactic, and HARDtalk's signature style, though I personally find it irritating.  My objection here is that this goes beyond "Devil's Advocate" into presenting falsehoods as truth.  The introductory piece to camera - where the interviewee is absent, and which acts as a brief introduction for the viewer - states "opera is one of the least watched art forms... possibly the most expensive... Can one of the most elite and expensive art forms have worldwide appeal?"  In doing so we are presented as fact the ideas of elitism and expense, and invited to assume that there is a lack of appeal and little that can be done about this. The whole tone of the show is rigged in favour of the opening hypothesis from the start. 
  • Would anyone who is not already an operagoer really learn anything from this interview to dispel their preconceptions? I certainly don't expect interviewees to be invited in for a cosy chat where everyone agrees on everything.  That teaches us nothing. But equally, an interview only works if there is a genuine two-way discussion.  Here, Montague clearly had her "lines to take" (in fairness these may be dictated by the director or producer, and not her actual opinion) and was determined to get through them no matter what Hampson said.  This makes her look aggressive, ignorant and rude, while Hampson must have the patience of a saint to keep his cool like that.
  • The repeated use of the word "elitism" invites us to assume that opera is inaccessible to all but the most privileged in society. This is demonstrably untrue, as I have argued in my letter. There is nothing structurally or institutionally preventing "non-elite" viewers from attending, even if we still have a way to go in actually achieving a truly representative audience. Opera houses are doing their utmost to reach out. And yet it only takes a few lazy, prejudiced interviews to undo that hard work and deter people from attending because they feel, inaccurately, that they wouldn't fit in.
  • As noted by one of my friends in response to this,Sarah Montague expected Hampson to respond to many of the institutional problems, whether real or perceived, of opera funding; as an independent professional, he isn't a representative of the Royal Opera and can't reasonably be asked to account for its relationship to the public funding bodies. The people to speak to here would be the directors, the managers, the publicity and outreach officers, and the people who fund the opera. We shouldn't attack an artist who is simply following his vocation and trying to bring an appreciation of opera to people worldwide regardless of their background.
  • The second half of the interview is much less aggressive, and perhaps I should have been clearer in my letter, though I still felt there was an air of "it'll never catch on" scepticism to Montague's questioning. Here, the interview touches upon the influence of new digital media on listening habits. Why not start there? It's a fascinating topic. Why precede it with 15 minutes of inverse snobbery? What does that achieve?

In which Alex writes a letter to the BBC which starts an internet storm

I've never written a letter to anyone to complain about anything before.  It really takes a lot to make me angry, and usually I take a rather fatalistic view that there's nothing much I can do if it's already happened or if it doesn't directly involve me.  But the other day, I saw a BBC interview packed with lazy cliché, attacking one of my favourite art forms, and something just snapped.

Here's the interview which started it all:

And here's my letter of response:

I posted the letter via "snail mail" and emailed it round to a few musically-inclined friends, who seemed to like it and encouraged me to share it more widely.  Just as I was leaving work on Thursday, I posted it to Facebook.  By the time I got home 30 minutes later it had already been shared by at least 10 friends and garnered 1000 views.  By 20:30 the view counter was up to 5000.  At some point around then, Norman Lebrecht ran the letter on his blog.  At this point I knew that I must have touched a nerve somewhere.

We are now about 24 hours later and the view count stands at 84,000.   My letter has been shared on Facebook by friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, and made its way back to other friends via people neither I nor they know.  Paavo Järvi has reposted it.  I really had no idea that, in sending what I thought to be a mildly humorous letter of displeasure, I would create such a phenomenon!

EDIT 9 August: the link to the HARDtalk video had broken.  This has now been restored.  My original letter of complaint has so far attracted 139,000 individual visitors.