Wednesday, April 06, 2005



It galls me to say that America's got the right idea with radio. With dozens of bland, advert-stuffed radio stations filling the airwaves, people are flocking to subscription satellite radio in their droves. For about five quid a month, you get a hefty package of radio stations, each taylored to musical, political or listening taste, with perfect near-CD reception.

Of course, you get ranting conservative talkshows, but they have liberal stations by way of balance. With an alternative that contains up to thirty minutes of adverts per hour, it's no wonder that advert-free subscription radio is such a viable alternative.

If it ever happened here, we'd be mug enough to allow Murdoch to run it - you'd pay the sub and still get the adverts - just like Sky TV where you get only 44 minutes of programming each hour.

Over here, we're still with old fashioned steam-powered radio, but with a digital alternative (DAB - known in the industry as "Dead and Buried" because of its slow uptake) just taking off. The audio quality isn't as good as they promised - mostly because broadcasters are using hugely compressed bandwidths to save money. Rather defeats the purpose of having "near-CD sound" if you don't use it.

With the quality of radio - commercial or otherwise - it does make you incredibly picky over what you listen to during the day:

0700-0710 Radio 4: Today programme news
0710-0900 Graham Mack and Ritchie - Bournemouth 2CRFM. What could easily be an identikit commercial breakfast show, but strangely compelling thanks to one of the strangest DJs I have ever heard. Habitually abuses listeners on air, stays just on the wrong side of bad taste to keep me interested. A hero. Blots his copybook, however, with occasional forays into the mawkish Scouse sentimentality Boris Johnson got into trouble over.

Breakfast shows are notoriously difficult slots to fill - get the listener first thing, and the theory says they'll stay tuned all day. Once a DJ hits a winning formula, then they're all at it. There were no end of "Zoo" formats when Chris Evans was coining it in at Radio 1. Say what you like about the Ginger Whinger, he was streets ahead of anything Johnny "Lost it, utterly" Vaughan could ever manage on Crapital.

0900-1300 *Click*
1300-1330 Radio 4: The World at One
1400-1515 Steve Wright in the afternoon. Ah, guilty pleasures, but it's all downhill after the oldies slot.
1515-1900 Radio6 Music - now I remember why I bought this digital radio...
1900-2200 Dorchester Wessex FM (or any station in The Local Radio Group) - at last a local station that's not afraid to deviate from the tried and test, boring as hell Celine Dion/Westlife evening schedule. Good grief, there's new music. Unsigned acts. Top, edgy stuff. And on Sundays, a three hour punk programme. Heaven.

And you?

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