Thursday, 09 August 2012

Radio Reviews: 10 August

It really is time to hang up on some radio-show callers, says Louis Barfe

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWIf I ever host a radio phone-in, the first topic I'll want to discuss is whether the people who give their opinion on such programmes should be allowed access to telecommunications equipment. Mean-spirited, ill-informed and never troubled by uncertainty, so many callers' utter wrongness leaves me with a flapping jaw.

The London station LBC is the worst offender, its 'London's biggest conversation' slogan being readily amended to 'London's bigots' conversation', and with good reason. You'd think Radio 4 might attract a better class of caller, but no. Any Answers is hoaching with them.

Jeremy Vine provides them with a daily berth on BBC Radio 2. There is a sort of balance, but every third call or so will be something that makes me want to go round to the caller's house and smash their GPO type 746 with a ball-peen hammer. Discussing doping allegations over Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen's Gold medal-winning times, two callers said that it was sour grapes and that the Americans should be gracious losers.

But the third had one of those peevish little know-all voices that suggests a regular diet of unripe wine-making berries. The Americans were right to at least question the timings. Fair enough. The Chinese had a history of doping in the 1990s. Well before Shiwen's time, Vine pointed out. The Chinese are 'well versed in developing the sort of drugs that are untraceable'. As the call wore on, it became clear that the caller had already made his mind up about Shiwen and China. When someone says 'With all due respect', it's a guarantee that what follows will display no respect.

When Vine was on Newsnight, he was dismissed as a Paxman clone, to the point that Paxo referred to him as 'Mini-Me'. Since moving to Radio 2, Vine has found his own voice, which owes more to the Spitting Image puppet of David Coleman than to the other Jeremy. Vine's cadences rise and fall, often with scant relation to the meaning of the words he's saying, and he sometimes comes dangerously close to shouting, to the point that I wonder if anyone's told him what that thing on the stand in front of his mouth is. Nonetheless, he's fair.

I've been here a while now. I feel we're friends. Can I ask a small favour? If you ever find yourself about to call a phone-in, please ask yourself: 'Is my call really necessary?'




The picture is looking grim for BBC local radio, with the recent RAJAR ratings sweep showing market share down to 7.7 per cent from 8.1 per cent last year. Further falls are likely when BBC cuts to broadcasting hours come into force, killing many popular evening shows.

Follow Louis on Twitter: @LadyWireless or email him at:

Louis also has a new blog on

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