Has anyone listened to Radio 4 of late? Well, over the last weekend – during the aforementioned DIY marathon – I pretty much listened to it for 15 hours a day straight.
I caught up on all the Archers shennanigans (poor old Kathy) and listened to the same edition of Moneybox twice (I thought Roger Bootle was very engaging, although I am concerned about his theory that Mervyn King knows a terrible secret about the economy that is yet to be revealed).
Anyway, I digress. The point of this post was that, on the whole, I quite enjoyed the experience. It felt quite 20th century to be presented with a banquet of diverse and sometimes baffling programmes on which to feast. None of which, if I had been on the Internet, I would have chosen to indulge in by myself. Force feeding, in this sense, appears to have its place.
However, the one time that I did consider turning the radio off (and frankly throwing the thing out of the window) was during Saturday’s Any Answers. Here I came face-to-face (or ear-to-voice?) with what I supposed was a representive slice of Radio 4’s audience.
I’m afraid the only way to describe it was cringeworthy. In my mind I had imagined the programme would attract hoardes of erudite intellectuals with concise views, willing to challenge the arguments of the Any Questions panel.
Instead it was a horrifying mix of parochial middle England attitudes and blundering baffoonery. I think, at one point, one old chap was arguing (via a debate about Blue Peter‘s cat) that Radio 4 must use canned laughter because anything other than Humphrey Lyttelton simply wasn’t funny!
Of course, as it was pointed out to me later, Any Answers doesn’t represent Radio 4 listeners, it represents those listeners willing to interact with the programme.
Which leads me to the question, why? Why doesn’t the show encourage a wider demographic to respond? What is it not doing? I think this is a fundamentally important question, not just for Radio 4 but for anyone in the media that wants to interact with their full range of audience.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but perhaps it’s something to do with the medium of communication. Perhaps you have to be parochial in your views or, indeed, a bit batty to air them live on radio…