About The Campaign
Someone asked me the other day about this site and how it got started - for my own rapidly dwindling cognitive faculties I thought it might be fun to write down about how what started as a fleeting idea turned into me being described as a "furious listener" by the Daily Mail.
24th Jan 2006
I didn't see Newsnight the evening before where the axing of the UK Theme was first announced, so the first I heard about it was when I was listening to Today. Something inside me was annoyed at this - I am not one of life's militant campaigners, but the UK Theme has kept me company on early morning car journeys and I've always liked it's idiosyncratic nature, which is completely in keeping with a unique national treasure like Radio 4. The reason for removing it seemed idiotic as well - so another news bulletin could be put in there. What person so needs another news bulletin that (a) they can't use a computer or watch one of the various rolling news channels on TV or (b) wait 30 minutes for the Today programme to start.
What could I do about this? Well, I am web designer... so I registered a domain, designed a quick website to get something up. I found a website which could handle doing a free petition, so I set up and account and directed people from the website to there.
Job done, I sat back and got on with my other work.
An interesting note on the pace of change on the internet and the massive rise of Social Media - today I would have used Wordpress or Drupal to set up a site much more quickly, grabbed petition modules and probably be up and running in 10 mins. I could then have posted it all over Facebook, set up a Facebook Fan Page, tweeted about it, submitted my RSS feed to various feed aggregators, pushed it out to Digg, Reddit, etc. etc. etc.
But this was the old, old, days of 2006. Blogs were just getting going. Facebook only existed for Harvard students. Twitter was still in development. Digg and Reddit were the preserve of nerds.
I email some friends about the site. It also starts getting linked to by Forums. I'm still not entirely sure how this got started - but someone posted on The Archers forum/comments page with a link to the site which I think was the first place. After that, more links started coming in from other forums. People started signing the petition (and complaining about the company who did the petition asking for a donation at the end, which I didn't realise - for a while this was the #1 petition on their site, so I wonder how much they made out of it).
First to email was the Guardian. They'd seen the site, and asked for some quotes. Then The Times. Then The Mail. Today's producer called and asked if I'd go on the following day for an interview. Then I started getting some weird calls - a guy who'd set up a similar site said he was going to redirect everyone to my site. Someone claiming to be 90s Lounge Pop sensation Mike Flowers sent me an email. A very posh lady called to say they'd seen the site and had just had lunch and could I add Lady Something Or Other and Lady Something Else to the petition.
So all very daft, and I thought it would blow over the next day. Emboldened by my fabulous campaigning powers, I emailed Jeremy Paxman. He replied back saying he agreed, and "why didn't they get kill off You and Yours or Veg Talk".
The Times call back to see if there's anything else interesting. A few hundred people have signed the petition. I mention Paxman's email, thinking it might prolong the story.
I get up early and check the stats - about 500 people have signed the petition. I'm picked up by my BBC car (read: a local taxi company) to take me to the swish offices of BBC Surrey to sit in a broom cupboard and be interviewed by James Naughtie on Today. I erm and ah my way through an interview, together with MP Austin Mitchell who's all for keeping the theme too. (Later in the day he'll table an Early Day Motion about keeping the Theme.)
I get home and find various emails from friends about my performance on Today, as well as some more from newspapers and weirdly ASDA telling me they're going to play the Theme in their stores.
The Times have used Paxman's quote about killing off You and Yours as their headline. Oops.
I check the stats again. Following the Today interview, several thousand people have signed the petition. The site is getting thousands of visits every hour. Er... maybe I should have put some advertising on it :)
More and more news stories. Letters. This is getting a bit silly now...
[More to come...!]