Brian Redhead

Wheeler and the BBC

Facts and personalities

Is this really required? Is this really required?
The death of Charles Wheeler was announced on the 4th of July 2008. He was a BBC man through and through, but then so was Alistair Cooke. When Cooke died the whole world, so it seemed, took it in turns to step forward and say how good he was. And he was, but good at what? Few people could remember his writing for the Guardian, too far back in time but most would recall the radio broadcasts and not so much the content as the man himself. The genial warm lyrical speech style as if floating above the subject but without seeming to be detached from it. The whole world stepped forward? Well not Charles Wheeler, he suggested that Cooke was detached, implying that he was never in the thick of it - such as a race riot in the USA- so was a lightweight. The gulf between Cooke and Wheeler was huge, the reason? This quote from the Times gives us some idea of why this was so -

Wheeler himself would probably have considered his major series (on BBC TV) as his five-part Charles Wheeler’s America (1996) but this, in fact, was disappointing, largely because of his modest refusal to give pride of place to his own personality. (Not for nothing was he one of the harshest critics of Alistair Cooke and his 1972 mega series on America.)

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