In October 2011 I wrote a blog entitled 'Why Radio England is a Really Bad Idea'.
That self-same Radio England, now known as the Mark Forrest show, launches on Monday.
None of us knows what it's going to sound like yet, but I'm at least prepared to give it an impartial hearing. Not everyone is. More of that later.
Here's why I've changed my mind.
What I feared, back then, was
Clapped-out B-list telly celebs revising their CVs hoping for a comeback gig. It's the easy option, if you're setting up a big show, to go for the name that will at least attract a glimmer of recognition from Cornwall to Tyneside.To be blunt I expected a Cheggers character. A bit of a cheeky chappie, known to the fiftysomething demographic, not obviously overexposed this century (unless you count that game show) playing way too much Celine Dion and chatting away to superannuated soap stars with a post-Christmas diet DVD to flog.
I thought it would most likely come from a spare studio at Broadcasting House in that there London and feature rejects from Steve Wright in the Afternoon and any under-subscribed clients from the day's GNS offerings.
As an aside at this point, why do Beeb locals compete so hard for their 'share' of dire GNS interview guests? I recall seeing a producer go into an epic battle to win a slot for his station with some boffin wheeled out to explain 'how cats can lap up milk without getting their chins wet'. I'm not making this up, sadly.
I was wrong.
The reality is different. The new network show is being presented by Mark Forrest, the voice probably best known for saying just two words ... 'Classic FM' ... between random tracks selected from the Reader's Digest Hundred Best Orchestral Tunes boxed set. If I say I can't recall a single Mark Forrest link (other than the one mentioned) it's a compliment. Really.
When you're waiting for a filling in a dentist's waiting room or stuck five miles from junction 25 of the M62 in stationary traffic you don't want intrusive personality. Evans or Wright jocking into Mozart would be like putting a Monet watercolour in a flashing neon surround. That kind of art requires subtle framing, and Mark does it superbly.
That should mean less Celene, less ego-waving and more focus on the journalism.
Anyone who has ever attended the Gillard awards (I was honoured to be asked to help judge the original journalism category a couple of years back) will know there is some superb reporting and production across the BBC local network which (by definition) doesn't normally get heard beyond the confines of each individual TSA.
I've suggested previously that the Beeb should save money when savings are required by axing the worst examples of tweeness on Radio 4 and instead provide a national showcase for the best of what local can do.
To be honest, when I suggested that for Radio 4 I'd envisaged 45 minutes once a week on a Wednesday. This will be fifteen hours a week, every week of good stuff to find on a brand new English network, so it's a much bigger ask.
Another aside at this point. Can anyone .. anyone .. tell my why Midweek is still on the air? Does Libby Purves know some awful secret? She certainly reveals plenty of youthful hanky-panky at the World Service in her excellent autobiography. But the programme she does now is so insufferably, suffocatingly middle class. It's like being waterboarded over an Aga.
Back to the main argument, and now for the self-interest. The Forrest programme's not coming from BH or even the gleaming towers of MediaCity. It's coming from Leeds, the centre of the known universe, and two of the three-strong production team are alumni of my Broadcast Journalism course at Leeds Trinity University. I'm very pleased about this outcome.
The cynical reader will see tokenism in the choice of Yorkshire to host the output. Just the thing to tick a few diversity boxes in the battle to win a commission.
Others will point out that running expenses for Matthew Bannister's Wire Free Productions in Leeds will be way below South Eastern or even Salford levels. The bankers used to have call centres in Bradford before they twigged Bangalore was even cheaper, and before they'd taken control of the international telecom networks.
Those less prone to conspiracy theory will note more prosaically that Leeds is the nearest biggish studio complex to Mark's home in the Dales.
Being away from 'hubs of creativity' should bring benefits. There'll be less temptation to recycle guests, as has been known to happen with BBC Breakfast and Five Live coming out of the same building. Producers are more likely to rub shoulders with and pick up the concerns of real 50-summat C2DE local radio listeners in Leeds bus station or Kirkgate Market, the Beeb's immediate neighbours, than they are in Costa Coffee amid the Disneyworld perfection of MediaCity.
So I for one am prepared to give this version of Radio England a fair chance. I'll be listening on Monday, and watching out for the inevitable Twittering classes response on Tuesday.
Some Twitterers - notably the self-styled BBC Radio Forum - have already decided the show's a disaster. That's unfair. There may be genuine unresolved grievances over DQF cuts, but that's no reason to damn a new programme unheard.
The new show will different to what went before, and I'll be reviewing it here once it's had a few editions to bed in.
The biggest challenge Mark and his team face is to make me care about something that's happened in Shropshire .. or Cornwall .. or Kent. I feel no natural affinity with any of these places the way I do if a story breaks in York or Lancashire. How will you make me care?
Also as I type this I'm a little nervous to see the show is soliciting responses on social media to the question 'how many pets do you have in your house?' Hmm. That sort of query might just be a way of testing the messaging system. It might. We can but hope so.
I concluded my original 2011 post with the line
If the BBC's going to survive its latest crisis it needs to start thinking and working smarter.We'll find out next week how far they've succeeded in doing so.