Radio days

February 21, 2007

Jon Husband sent me this interesting reference to the value of radio. I generally agree with the points it made and if anything would go further in arguing for the supremacy of radio over television as means of stimulating human imagination. Now before I proceed I need to confess that I starting to realise that I am in danger of becoming a parody of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch. I had this pointed out to me by my son the other day when I told him that when I was young we had to walk two miles to school in all weathers dressed in shorts, and that included when the temperature was sub zero and there was snow on the ground. This did not have the desired effect of making him realise how lucky he was, but instead produced general derision and mockery. However at the risk of the same reaction from you, dear reader I want to tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably?

I grew up on a diet of radio not television. In fact we did not get a television at home until I was eleven. We only got it then because the BBC were broadcasting Shakespeare’s War of the Roses plays. We watched them dutifully, but then succumbed to a diet of Dr Who. However we still listened to the Radio which in those days was special. We had Children’s Hour with the wonderful voice of David Davies. I can still play in my head his reading of the Just So Stories. I also heard the Hobbit there, the Wierdstone of Brisingamen, Toytown (remember Larry the Lamb), Jennings and many others. To this day I am likely to be listening to Radio 4, on the web if I am not in the UK. Sitting here in Phoenix I have just caught up on the Archers (the longest running Soap Opera in the world and its older than me!).

The key difference with radio is that I use my imagination, I do not depend on the visualisation of the television of film director. Empathy is also higher, as my ability to situate the story in my own fears or hopes is higher. In a very real sense radio, like any good story, carries a level of ambiguity which increases the dialogue between myself as listener and the story teller. I contribute more, and thus receive more.

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