Saturday, January 01, 2011

After 60 years, it be time to say goodbye

In one of the promos the BBC has been running for the 60th anniversary of The Archers, a lady talks about how a particular scene in the yokel radio drama moved her to tears. I must be a lot more sentimental, as I find that I'm crying as soon as the theme tune starts. In fact, the only thing that can stop the pain is reaching for the 'off' button after the first couple of bars.

How can it be that taxpayers' money is still, in 2011, being spent on producing this utter drivel? Radio 4 seems to bumble along in an extraordinary timewarp. As I've noted before, its excruciating dramas, twee parlour games and philosophical university seminars would not pass for acceptable radio output in any other country in the world.

People will no doubt defend shows such as The Archers and Start the Week as being quintessentially British. But this is a vision of Britain drenched in sepia and packaged up in cotton wool. The BBC is expecting a generation brought up on the broadcasting equivalent of takewaways and convenience stores to feast at a formally laid table, complete with fussy fish knives and wine-pouring flunkies.

If you fancy staying up after Midnight, what a treat you have in store. Book of the Week. A couple of shipping forecasts. Highlights from the BBC World Service. By 5.45 am, my Prayer of the Day would be for a heavy dose of barbiturates. Through my drug-induced stupor, I might imagine I heard someone milking cows in a farmyard, taking a walking tour of Tasmania or profiling Prince William.

One day, it will all come to an end. Someone - probably motivated by the need to save public pennies - will pull the plug. And Sandy Toksvig, Arthur Smith, Nicholas Parsons, Harriet Cass and all the rest will go spiralling down the hole with the antedeluvian formats they help to preserve. There would be an outcry, of course, from a vocal group of Radio Fournatics, but I doubt they actually number much more than the population of Ambridge.


  1. I'd much rather live in a Radio 4 Britain that a Sky one.

  2. How wrong you are, IMHO. The Archers is an absolute treat, and I've just enjoyed the first ep of the new Radio 4 serial, Miss Mackenzie, dramatised from an Anthony Trollope novel.

    It's horses for courses, init, Phyllis, which is why Radio 4 still exists. Some of us are rather fond of old Sandi and Arthur.