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Fans furious as Mike Harding is axed by BBC Radio 2
9:00am Friday 26th October 2012 in News
A popular BBC presenter who broadcasts to hundreds of thousands of listeners each week from North Craven has been sacked from Radio 2 after 15 years.
The singer and comedian, who presents Radio 2’s weekly folk music programme from his home near Settle, told his army of fans that he is “not leaving the show of my own volition”.
Mr Harding is being replaced on Wednesday evenings by Mark Radcliffe, 54, who paid tribute to Harding’s show, and said it was “daunting to be following in his footsteps”.
“He is a friend and someone I respect enormously and I really want to pay tribute to the sterling job he's done on the Folk Show for so long,” he added.
Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Harding, 67, stressed he had been pushed. He said the BBC press release "makes it look as though I chose to go. I did not choose to go. [I] was told I was going.” He said it was “a PR exercise of the highest water. Orwell’s Newspeak has nowt on it”.
Mr Harding told the Guardian: “In 15 years I have built the programme from 70,000 listeners to 860,000 listeners. In all that time I have never had a single phone call from Radio 2 to say I was doing a good job even though I instituted things like the Folk Awards with my producer John [Leonard]. I built that show up over the years with a lot of hard work.
“Last Tuesday I got the only phone call I have ever had from Radio 2 – from Bob Shennan – telling me he was pulling me from the programme. No reason was given beyond that they wanted to make it more ‘live’. No other presenter was mentioned.”
On Facebook, Mr Harding added: “[I] intend to work on my show until December 26 with the same love and professionalism I’ve brought to it for the last 15 years.”
As we went to press, more than 2,600 fans had signed a petition urging the BBC to reverse its decision.
Organiser Liz Ashton said: “Mike Harding has been sacked from his post as the weekly presenter of his BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, in favour of a younger model, Mark Radcliffe. While we have no issue with Mr Radcliffe as a presenter, Mike Harding has worked tirelessly for all of us in the folk world, both as listeners and performers. He deserves much better treatment than this. Without him at the helm of this show, we will lose a valuable resource, a man who has devoted a huge portion of the past 15 years to supporting the folk greats and promoting the younger generation of folk.”
A Facebook group has also been set up called “Lighting the Landscape, save Mike Harding, he’s a national treasure”, which has hundreds of followers.