The BBC has defended Gardeners’ Question Time after it was savaged by a former panellist.
Professor Stefan Buczacki slammed Radio 4’s GQT as a “pathetic shadow of its former self” and claimed: “The magical chemistry between broadcasters has been lost.”
Stefan, who took part in 600 episodes “without a break” from 1981 to 1994, said: “The rot set in some years ago after the programme was sold off in 1994 to an independent producer who forgot the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and made clumsy changes.
“True to the showbiz world in which the new producer felt the programme belonged, it began to visit ridiculous venues such as an Underground station and a nudist colony.”
Stefan has a reputation for his outspoken views. In 2008, when Toby Buckland joined Gardeners’ World on BBC2, he branded the programme “toe-curling and irrelevant”.
This time targeting GQT, he added: “Now in the hands of a company called Somethin’ Else, which produces pop and hip-hop shows, GQT no longer offers a sense of location or identity.”
He said GQT’s production values would “make older radio producers wince” and claimed that a recent episode with Chris Beardshaw, Anne Swithinbank and Bob Flowerdew had “no chemistry, no electricity, no informed banter” and was “too middle class, dull and urbane”
Writing in the Daily Mail, Stefan summed up: “It’s bland, too long and manages to make gardening boring, even to a professional gardener such as myself.”
A spokesman for Radio 4 hit back: “The GQT audience has remained steady at around 1.4 million a week for the past five years.
“The show regularly comes near the top in audience surveys of popularity. GQT topped one of these surveys two weeks ago with another Radio 4 classic, Just A Minute.
“Features have been a regular part of GQT for many years now. With the programme having been extended, there is still the same time devoted to audience Q&As as there used to be.
“It might even be the case that more time is devoted.”
AG’s 17 September issue reported that a GQT Live Tour, which had been due to visit 28 UK venues, was cancelled after poor ticket sales.