22 January, 2010

Radio waves

Every morning we wake up to NPR - public radio with countless local stations that connect up for national news. I'll be honest. It's all right. It covers the main news mostly and also has some pretty good in depth features - today's was on unfair bail requirements forcing people to plead guilty. But I do miss the Today programme. I know, I know, I'm spoiled. I grew up with the BBC in a house that listened almost exclusively to Radio 4. It's quite hard to describe Radio 4 to those unfamiliar with it. When you take time to think about it, it is quite amazingly diverse in the types of programme it provides - from news to plays to documentaries to comedy quizzes and on and on. And I am now in the land of television so it's not surprising that NPR is a poor relation. Things I don't like. It plays cheesy music between very short news pieces. And the announcers seem to have to spend almost as much time telling you who sponsored which bit of the programme as they do telling you the news - "Today's weather is brought to you by Chapstick". And they don't like telling you bad news. Case in point - we woke last week a day or two after the Haiti earthquake to hear the headlines. And they led with the news that an Oxfordshire policeman had been told off for sledging on his riot shield. Got to start the day with a smile even if an entire country has been devastated by an enormous earthquake.

When I get home from dropping the kids off, I'm usually in time to listen to the BBC's PM programme while I tidy up. One hour of in-depth news with the wonderful Eddie Mair. And I don't just listen to it to keep in touch with news from home. In fact I think I've learned more about Obama's plans for the banks, the Massachusetts senate election and US healthcare reform from the BBC than I have from American radio. I've also learned much much more about the earthquake, Afghanistan, Iraq and pretty much every other international news story. So if you're an American and you like intelligent radio, can I recommend that you start downloading or streaming or listening again to the BBC Radio 4 news service. Perhaps I'm biased but honestly I don't think so.

And today's hot tip to listen to - Allan Little's report on the gunfight and bomb attack by the Taliban in Kabul this week. First hand with good analysis. On From Our Own Correspondent - available as a podcast as well as listen again.


Amanda said...

Another good source of news and excellent in-depth analysis is CBC Radio 1. Like Radio 4, it is free of adverts and seems (to me, anyway), less parochial than the BBC.

I still listen to The News Quiz on Radio 4, though!

Eliane said...

Never miss the News Quiz although it is deeply parochial. But hilarious.

mountainear said...

Do agree with you re Radio 4. We are so lucky to have the BBC in general. OK it has it's more stoopid moments but don't we all? I think of its broadcasts winging their way around the world - the brilliant, brilliant World Service for example. I may winge about the license fee paying for things I don't want but know that for world class reportage, culture and creativity the BBC is pretty good.

Suzanne@ Panteg Alpacas said...

and you wonder why the americans think they are the only nation - can't blame them really , news is not their strong point

just Gai said...

I live and breathe Radio 4 from waking up to the Today programme to the comedy half hour while I'm cooking dinner. About the only time I switch over (to Radio 2) is when the Archers comes on (with apologies to all Archers fans).

I grew up in India where the Lily Bolero theme tune to the World Service News was part of the wallpaper.

If I were ever invited to appear on Desert Island Discs I'd choose a radio permanently tuned in to Radio 4 as my luxury. If it were all the BBC produced it would be worth the licence fee on its own.

Garden Girl said...

Oh, Gai, I so agree with you about the Archers! Just hearing the music sends me into a panicky rush to change to world service!

Do love so much about Radio 4 though... like In Our Time... I have learned so much about such a huge variety of things.

At least there are lots of podcasts for you though, Eliane... you can save them up and put them on your MP3 player. Not the same, I know, but better than being totally exiled!