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Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

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Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 23:31 on 2011 Feb 02

Anyone see the BBC2 programme "Do We Really Need The Moon?" at 9pm on Tuesday 1st Feb? If so, did you notice that the presenter seems to think that the moon orbits the earth in the opposite sense to the earth's rotation and thus exerts a braking effect on it?? Oh dear. That wasn't the only factual error of course, just the most laughable!Come on BBC, if you're determined to dumb down at least make an effort to get your basic facts right.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Andrea Tasselli at 00:00 on 2011 Feb 03

Wasn't she purportedly a scientist of some sort? At any rate when I heard that sentence I switched channel.Andrea T.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 00:06 on 2011 Feb 03

I believe it was said she "designs satellites" (of the human-built type!). Wikipedia tells us she actually now works for Astrium. Let's hope the various errors were down to the script-writer(s) rather than herself, else I shan't be watching anything else she presents!Anyone care to start a list of the mistakes made?

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Gary Poyner at 10:59 on 2011 Feb 03

I heard the phrase "The Moon is a lump of rock in space" and thought...here we go again! Total bilge!Gary

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 11:49 on 2011 Feb 03

I've just looked at the programme again (I had it on video as I was out that night) and listed an entire A4 page of errors. Apart from the astounding claim mentioned in my first email, another good one was that the earth's rotational axis was stable because of its spin speed. She then went on to describe how Mars was not stable but didn't mention that its rotational speed is almost exactly the same as that of the earth! And of course Venus spins almost upright despite having a day which is considerably longer than its year! Again - oh dear.The real problem is that those without the knowledge to assess this nonsense for what it is will just believe it (well - it's on the BBC, so it must be true). No wonder educational standards are dropping if this is what is taught in schools as well - apparently the presenter does a lot of work with children (which certainly showed in her presentational style!)What is to be done?

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Gary Poyner at 12:33 on 2011 Feb 03

Well I think you deserve a medal or a large pot of cash for watching it a second time. To hear that the presenter works with kids is worrying!Gary

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by at 15:43 on 2011 Feb 03

I missed the broadcast and recorded it for later. Reading the posts in this thread made me go and watch my recording. I was as horrified as all the other contributors. Even the 'graphic' showed the moon orbiting the wrong way. And was/is RNA really made in tidal pools?? I never knew it was so simple! Even without the prompting from the posts, I wondered why earth should 'fall over' when it has slowed enough. And she didn't even consider the complete absence of the moon. I was half hoping she'd say the tides would disappear!! But she never got that far. She did say that it was the moon's rotation around the earth that dragged the tides around. No mention of the earth rotating under the tidal bulge. I had intended to keep the recording for my grandchildren to watch - but not now. I've deleted it. If she wrote the script............Even if she didn't write it, didn't she read it before presenting it? Doesn't the BBC have any knowledgable advisors? She was listed in the programme blurb as having a doctorate. I wonder what in.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 10:00 on 2011 Feb 04

I watched it as well. It gripped me so strongly that I had to see it to the end because I realised that I must have been reading all the wrong books and gone to the wrong lectures. I feel the need to write to the BBC to tell them to ask for a Parliamentary Bill for the BBC to take over all Science institutes in the UK so that these so learned bodies can be brought into line. I cannot wait for the next in the series.On a more serious note ,perhaps the BAA along with the RAS an the SPA could write a joint open letter to the BBC via either the Guardian or the Independent, (the only papers the BBC recognise), on this subject.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 12:23 on 2011 Feb 04

Even if it had no immediate effect, at least an "official" protest of the sort suggested would show that the adverse comments this programme is attracting were not just down to the lunatic fringe (pun not intended!). Mind you, if the BBC programme makers monitor their own message-boards they can hardly fail to be aware that "DWRNTM" was not one of their most successful offerings! The reverse-orbiting moon was picked up pretty quickly by Joe Public, as was the fact that it's actually the rotation of the earth under the "water bulge" that causes the tides, not the bulge being dragged over the earth's surface by the moon's orbital movement. (as already noted by J M Aucken)Given the desirability of an official approach, what should be the next step? Is the Council of the BAA willing to take a lead?

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 14:51 on 2011 Feb 04

I had a quick look through a number of forums and found it worrying where quite a few made comments like:I have learnt a lot about the moonandDr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a fantastic presenter and will make a good replacement for Patrick when he retires!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I see that her Phd is in mechanical engineering (not that there is anything wrong in that) and she has an MBE (I can think of lots of scientists who deserve one and still waiting)

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 15:41 on 2011 Feb 04

Yes - worrying, isn't it? One contributor to the BBC messageboard said, quite rightly, that people would have thought they were being informed whereas they were actually being (seriously) misinformed. There were also several comments that her style was more appropriate to CBBC than BBC2! I did see the comment about replacing Sir Patrick - it did have a couple of "smileys" after it though, so perhaps the contributor was just engaging in irony!Incidentally, her MBE was for services to science and education - the "popularisation of" [some sort of] science, we must assume, rather than the dissemination of scientifically accurate facts!

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 13:15 on 2011 Feb 06

Readers of this thread might like to know that I finally decided to send an official complaint about this programme to the BBC. The full text is a bit long to include here but made the points that the programme was more likely to mislead than inform; that some of the errors were distinctly "schoolboy" so should have been noticed if the presenter knew her stuff; that programmes of this low quality reflect badly on all science teaching, and that much more cross-checking should have been going on to catch the errors before transmission.I don't expect a speedy reply, but I will update this thread when one arrives.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Gary Poyner at 14:33 on 2011 Feb 06

That reply will be most interesting to read. I'm looking forward to it. Well done!Perhaps you should have asked the BBC to let Shaun the Sheep present the next one. Much more entertaining and probably more factually accurate.Gary

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Marlyn Smith at 09:54 on 2011 Feb 08

That's been an amusing read guys. I'm sorry I missed the programme!

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 23:30 on 2011 Feb 23

I have now received a reply from the BBC to my complaint, but I'm afraid it's decidedly underwhelming (no surprise there!). They freely admit to the cock-up over the moon's orbit but seem surprised that a viewer could come to the conclusion that the programme implied that the tides are caused by the moon dragging the "water bulge" over the earth's surface.Given the unsatisfactory nature of the response I shall be composing a further riposte, pointing out the extent of the mis-information contained within the programme and suggesting that before it is repeated (for that seems to be the intention) it should not just have the lunar orbit graphic corrected but be subject to a root-and-branch revision.I tried to attach my complaint and the response as a text file, using the "attach image" facility, but it didn't seem to work: anybody know how to achieve this?

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Andrea Tasselli at 08:29 on 2011 Feb 24

Can't you simply cut and past in the message body?Andrea T.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 11:41 on 2011 Feb 24

I certainly could do that but it's rather long (the text file is 5.5Kbytes) so the resultant post would be excessively large. I was hoping to find a way that any interested reader could access the text without inconveniencing the casual browser.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 17:54 on 2011 Feb 24

Compared with the size of images it is quite small. I think that it would be worthwhile pasting it.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 11:44 on 2011 Feb 25

I wasn't so much concerned about the "physical" size of the file as on the number of words that size represents and therefore the amount of page-space the full text would take up. Images are quite different in that the page-space of even a huge image file can be quite small, depending on how they are encoded. MSWord tells me it's 950 words long, 13 times as long as this post!

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 12:00 on 2011 Feb 25

Go for it :-) The only other option would be to ask Callum if he could put it into the Blog Spot or the News section.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Callum Potter at 12:08 on 2011 Feb 25

Hi Steve,try attaching it as a File - .txt or .doc - 120kb or less.I'd suggesting using a .txtIf you tried attaching it as a file before please try again, as there was a buglet which i have now fixed.Thanks,Callum

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Callum Potter at 14:52 on 2011 Feb 25

My bad...I had not enabled File uploads for members (in my testing it was working because i am an administrator). I have tested with a members level login now, and below the image file upload, you should now see a file upload field.Sorry for the confusion (i certainly was!).Cheers, Callum

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 13:58 on 2011 Feb 25

Nope - still no good. I've managed to attach a real JPG image file [now deleted] but trying to attach a text file [ie .txt] does nothing at all.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 15:34 on 2011 Feb 25

Aha! I hadn't realised this thread was going to turn into a debugging session as well as a moan at the BBC! Ah well - it's an ill wind ....So, here at last is the text file giving my complaint and the BBC's initial reply. Enjoy![N.B. Probably better to download and read offline in MSWord or something as it's not page-formatted for word-wrap etc.] [file name=BBC_Complaint.txt size=5711]/images_old/fbfiles/files/BBC_Complaint.txt[/file]

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 17:07 on 2011 Feb 25

Was this programme a rip off? I was doing some searches and found that there is an episode of the TV Series The Universe 402"The Day the Moon Was Gone"August 25, 2009A look at the importance of our moon and what the Earth would be like without one, such as a four hours of sunlight, pitch-black nights, 100 MPH winds spawning massive hurricanes, wild fluctuating climate changes as the planet topples on its axis, and the end of complex life forms including humans.I think a friend has the DVD set. I will ask to see it and compare.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 17:39 on 2011 Feb 26

Thank you Steve. Like you say a weak response. It would be interesting to have the views of a "real" Planetary Scientist :-)

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 15:36 on 2011 Mar 11

I've just fired off my latest broadside to the BBC, so we'll see what they make of that!I've attached the file below - it's a straight .TXT again so best to read offline. [file name=BBC_Complaint1.txt size=28062]/images_old/fbfiles/files/BBC_Complaint1.txt[/file]And here it is in .DOC (MSWord97) format, which should make it easier for those who can read it that way. [file name=BBC_Complaint1.doc size=76800]/images_old/fbfiles/files/BBC_Complaint1.doc[/file]

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 20:29 on 2011 Mar 11

Well done!

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 00:11 on 2011 May 23

After a considerable delay, the BBC have at last responded to my last set of comments. While it is gratifying that they have apparently taken on board some of what I was saying, the response isn't that encouraging in several key areas. I have thus sent back another fairly voluminous set of comments - we will see what that elicits!I've attached their response and my reply below (both in Word97 format). [file name=BBC_Response2.doc size=37376]/images_old/fbfiles/files/BBC_Response2.doc[/file] [file name=BBC_Complaint2.doc size=78336]/images_old/fbfiles/files/BBC_Complaint2.doc[/file]

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 17:05 on 2012 May 11

Those who were following this saga when the programme was aired the first time round (Feb 2011) might like to know that the revised repeat suddenly popped up on BBC4 last night (10th May). It is further repeated this Saturday (12th May, BBC4, 11:40pm), so don't miss it - see if you can spot the updates! I shan't spoil your fun by listing those I noticed, but the new version makes very interesting viewing.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Duncan Bryson at 19:02 on 2012 May 11

Yes-we really need the moon!!!

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 14:25 on 2012 May 18

I have now posted my follow-up remarks to the BBC. Had to be another complaint, I'm afraid, as you only get 350 words for a "comment"! (1500 with a complaint). Even so, I had to abbreviate my full thoughts somewhat.The text is attached below:- (Word97 format) [file name=BBC_Complaint3.doc size=20992]/images_old/fbfiles/files/BBC_Complaint3.doc[/file]Let's see what that brings forth - if anything.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 19:24 on 2012 Jul 25

Just to draw a line under this one, I eventually received a standard reply of the "thanks for your comments, which have been passed on" sort. Let's hope the whole saga encourages a more disciplined approach next time!The errors have encouraged me to come up with a better explanation of the phenomena (mis)described, however, which will eventually appear on my website. I am currently working on a magnum opus about the tides - not a straightforward topic!

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 23:37 on 2013 Mar 21

No, this is not a rhetorical question but the return to life of a thread which attracted mass interest a year or so ago - 859 views! The question in fact refers to an infamous BBC2 programme of the same name which was stuffed with inaccuracies. I was able (after long and detailed discussion with the programme's producers) to persuade them to correct the worst errors, but not all. In doing so, however, I became so engrossed in the subjects under discussion that I decided to produce full-scale scientific articles about them for publication on my website. As I say in the introduction to them, they are written at a very much higher level than could sensibly have been included in the programme, so I have also added a "60-second summary" of the salient points in each one, to demonstrate that a scientifically accurate but understandable explanation could have been given if the producers had done their research properly.Anyway - the above is really by means of an introduction to the statement that after a very great deal of research the articles are now available for perusal! They can be found on the Astronomical Theory section of my website, which can be accessed by clicking the following link:Astronomical Theory sectionOnce there, the article you want is "Do We Really Need The Moon?" (unsurprisingly enough!). Click on the title to go into the introductory page or on the green cross next to it for a basic index.While you're in the Theory section you might like to check out the other articles also - the major work on Saros Series contains genuinely novel information, based on my extensive research into the topic, which answers many questions posed by other notable mathematical astronomers including Jean Meeus, and that on Ecliptic Limits finds that the limits for annular and "full" eclipses are different, a fact which I have not seen reported before. If you do browse, please let me know what you think.Steve Holmes

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 09:30 on 2013 Dec 12

I cannot believe it. Maggie Aderin-Pocock is going to be joint running Sky at Night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are at least a dozen top BAA members who are more suited.One viewer lost. :(

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Richard Miles at 11:11 on 2013 Dec 12

The analogy of the cat amongst the pigeons springs to mind. I see that her Wikipedia profile ias already up to date following the announcement in yesterday's Guardian that she will be the new S@N TV host (alongside Chris Lintott). See:http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/11/maggie-aderin-pocock-sky-at... - I certainly would give her the benefit of the doubt. I do not know her personally and so am wont not to prejudge the matter. The BBC were never going to have a mad-keen amateur fronting up the show, and so long as they invite lots of amateurs with lots of different skills and experiences to participate, then it should work out. Interesting that during the early 1990's she got involved in another branch of science (tribology) so she may be a good choice for someone who is able to bring together folk from across a variety of disciplines which might help reach new viewers and widen the scope of the programme.Richard

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 18:58 on 2013 Dec 12

Ok Richard I will give it a try. I have to say that I am against "experts" being parachuted in when there are enough people on the ground who have won their spurs many times over. To move away from an Amateur Chairing the programme is quite drastic.

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 18:08 on 2013 Dec 13

If only she was an "expert" perhaps it wouldn't be such an issue! Frankly, I feel she has already had the benefit of any doubt I would wish to give her, following the debacle of "DWRNTM" and her other decidedly dumbed-down presentations.Yes, she has been involved in many branches of science but this was many years ago. Her tribology thesis was 1995 and she seems to have done her "hands-on" work developing instruments for satellites in the early 2000's. There's then a big gap in her Wikipedia career profile before the "she is now working on and managing" phrase so I guess she's now more a manager than a scientist as such. She probably currently spends a lot more time "communicating" than researching/developing, in any case. All of which is fine, but there is no "astronomical" qualification there at all! Yes, she may have "wanted to be an astronaut" as a child (didn't we all?) but even she says she is "committed to inspiring new generations of astronauts, engineers and scientists" - no mention of astronomers there! - and always describes herself as a "space scientist". This lack of an astronomical background (and presumably knowledge base) does not bode well. Her emphasis on children and young people is also worrying: while 'The Sky At Night' must of course continue to attract an ongoing audience it is not (and was never intended to be) a "children's programme". To try to make it so would clearly invite disaster.Her credits are said to include the mini-series 'Paradox' (panned by the critics and cancelled after one series); 'Dr Who Confidential' (just one appearance, and that as a "space scientist"); the infamous DWRNTM (no further comment needed!), and 'How Satellites Rule Our World' (2012): not an impressive list. I think I saw the last one and was not impressed by the level of its content - definitely one for the masses rather than a serious study. Example - when discussing geostationary orbits, did we get an explanation based on the fact that higher orbits take longer to traverse and hence if you go high enough it will take 24hrs = geostationary? No, we got the presenter running round a carousel, trying to keep up with it as it turned and saying you had to go a long way out as "gravity was so weak there" you wouldn't be pulled back to the earth. Oh dear!As for inviting lots of people with different skills to tell us about their work (as per Sir Patrick's approach) I have this nasty feeling that Dr A-P will not be able to keep herself in the background long enough for much useful to be said! (as Sir P was very adept at doing). Not sure how much respect such (real) experts would have for a "science populariser" in any case: will they even agree to appear?I fervently hope that our fears for the programme will not be realised but I'm not at all confident. Recruiting Dr A-P and moving to BBC4 may sound the death-knell for TSAN, not herald its salvation - but maybe that's what the BBC are intending all along??Steve Holmes

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Grant Privett at 16:09 on 2013 Dec 14

What was wrong with Dr Lucie Green as the new lead?

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 16:53 on 2013 Dec 14

She would indeed have been an excellent choice. Superb CV, currently active in astronomy research, interest in science education, passionate to engage the public with space science and astronomy (note!), recipient of an award for excellence in public engagement with science, very pleasant unassuming TV manner, clearly knowledgeable about her subject and interested in those of others .... and one could go on.Problem is, she's not a "media personality", is she? Yes, I know this is actually greatly to her advantage and would make her a much more appropriate presenter than Dr A-P, but maybe the BBC don't see things that way. Also, we're all assuming that the present team in fact want to carry on. It could well be that they were recruited on a strictly temporary basis and are now keen to return to their "day jobs".Of the other presenters, while Chris Lintott seems to have established himself quite happily I'm not sure Messrs Abel and Lawrence could carry the programme effectively in the long term so there's clearly a need for someone else to at least share the helm. But for goodness sake, even if Lucie Green is not willing to be that person surely there has to be someone better than Dr A-P??Suggestions, anyone?Steve Holmes

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Re:Do We Really Need The Moon? (BBC2)

Posted by TonyAngel at 20:13 on 2013 Dec 14

Quite agree. Lucie Green has proved her self in the community and if there has to be another professional she would be the best.I suspect that BBC is doing to Sky at Night what C4 did to Time Team.