Politics fine replacement for Pixton

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 April, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 April, 1995, 12:00am

SATURDAY morning listeners to Radio 3 who, from time immemorial, have come to treasure the bedside manner of veteran broadcaster Ralph Pixton, were miffed when they first learned of a change in the programme format.

It was a perfectly predictable reaction to the prospect of a move away from the fondly familiar to the unknown. It was all the more shocking because Pixton, everyone's old friend and counsellor, had, over the years, earned himself a reputation for his delicate handling of his fans' gripes, grouses and requests.

The more politicised Saturday morning fare, which Lorna Workman now provides between 8.15 am and 10 am, had its trial run on March 4, when Secretary for Transport Haider Barma spent over an hour in the dock answering questions from callers and Workman on transport issues.

The new programme began in earnest yesterday with Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands Tony Eason fielding questions on the property market.

Any fair-minded critic of those ruling over us, who listened to these two demonstrations of public accountability by top civil servants or to the helpful discussion by the Solicitor General Bob Alcock on the Consultative Paper on Legal Services on April 1, must have learned at least two things.

One is that these people know what they are talking about, they are competent, and their minds open to other people's ideas.

The other is that Lorna Workman is a highly professional interrogator with a clear grasp of the public's reservations about government policies and a formidable ringmaster in her handling of the performers on her show.

There is a firmness in keeping talk to the subject, a good balance in the use of stick and carrot, and a sense of humour to defuse tension when things get too serious.

It is early days to pass judgment on this experiment in maximising Radio 3's potential for political education but it looks a promising start. Britain and China have decreed that after 1997, Hong Kong is to be ruled not by people of its own choosing, but by senior civil servants appointed by the Beijing Government.

If the restructuring of Radio 3 can help to ensure that those who are vested with power to run the territory after 1997 do so in ways acceptable to the public, that is something to be welcomed.

John Walden is a former Director of Home Affairs.