The item below is a letter received here a couple of days ago. We neither endorse nor censure the writer’s comments, but wonder whether they might strike a chord with some readers. Editor
I hope you will decide to publish the following comments, which I make in great exasperation. My theme is the attitude currently evident in many ostensibly serious radio transmissions. The same may apply to television, but I cannot comment on this as I do not have any means of watching it.
The programmes I have in mind show a marked tendency to debase objective broadcasting in various ways. I could cite many of these but will content myself with a few glaring examples that come to mind immediately. They are as follows:
First: Weather forecasters who tell us with barely concealed glee that we are in for big trouble, for example by experiencing fierce cold, oppressive heat, damaging gales or – here is a nice one – dribs and drabs of rain. I don’t want to know the speakers’ opinions of what is about to happen. What I require is a note of the expected temperatures, cloud cover or absence of it, precipitation (if any) and wind speed. I would like to decide for myself what to make of the information.
Second: Reporters who, in the absence of anything sufficiently sensational on the home front, scour the world for news of someone, somewhere, enduring horrors which are doubtless important to the sufferers, but virtually meaningless to the rest of us. I would prefer the broadcasters to admit that they don’t have enough significant material to fill the time that has been set aside for peddling their wares. They could then offer us something soothing. I am mindful of one news bulletin (for all I know there may have been more) in the early days of radio, when the announcer said: “Today there is no news. Instead, we shall have some piano music.” That was very pleasant.
Third: Interviewers who, when speaking with someone who has had some personal mishap, ooze a degree of empathy which I do not believe can be sincere. Come off it, you lot. We all know you’re enjoying every minute of it, as are your interlocutors, who are basking in brief spells of fame as radio ‘stars’.
Fourth: Presenters who invite guests, talk to them for a while, then mention, as though it has occurred to them only in passing that the invitees ‘just happen’ to have written books that are about to be published. What a coincidence! I am convinced that the sole reason the guests have appeared is to plug their books and, if possible, to elicit compassion from listeners and perhaps eventually readers for the creative agony they have undergone to produce their deathless prose. My heart bleeds. Goodness knows there are enough dedicated book programmes on the radio, so it surely isn’t necessary for literary output to be hawked, especially so blatantly, during other transmissions.
Fifth: The persistent references to illness, both mental and physical. In my opinion, the main cause of diseases is fear of them, and the main cause of that fear is listeners’ exposure to constant prattling about health problems. This suggests to me that the content offered is shaped by worried middle-aged people who are angst-ridden about the future and who will not be satisfied unless they get everyone else as screwed up as they are. My advice to people affected by this is to cease tuning in and, as a consequence, hopefully stop worrying.
Sixth: Reporters who, when relating details of an incident, find the noisiest place they can in order to shout their comments, when they could surely move away a short distance and speak to us quietly. I don’t want to hear people yelling from under whirling helicopter blades, close proximity to gunfire, beside busy roads, rioting crowds and the like. If this is supposed to impart realism, it fails in my case, as I turn my set off until they are likely to have finished.
Seventh: I would like to know why, when I try to listen to the main late evening news bulletins, I hear a totally disproportionate amount of time given to what I call the crimecast. It seems that the news gatherers have trawled our world to bring an assortment of snippets that are of little or no interest to the vast majority of us. It looks to me that this is done to fill slots for which there is not enough material of substance.
Eighth: It seems that no matter what kind of programme is offered – news, current affairs, economics, obituaries or whatever else – the producers find some way of introducing blaring and totally inappropriate pop music at various points. I wish this practice would cease.
My final observation is that it would be nice to hear more good news, for example a comment to the effect that on the day under review, ninety-odd percent of us lived our lives in a normal, largely uneventful way. I seem to recall that the idea of offering brief bulletins of positive information was tried some time ago. The initiative did not last long, presumably because it wasn’t depressing. This leads me to think that if we were to adopt a method used in the past by the Armenian king Tigranes the Great, among others, i.e. the practice of ‘shooting the messengers’, we might get fewer gloomy items from the newshounds who survived.
I assume that other people have their bugbears about radio and possibly television, but if you would like to include my comments in one of your issues, you are most welcome to do so.
Boadicea Higgins, Miss – and please don’t refer to me as Boudicca
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