Friday, 06 November 2015

Radio Review: 6 November

When in France, national radio trumps the flaky BBC

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176One of the things you don’t get with digital radio is overseas stations drifting in and out of audibility. This is a shame for we anoraks. As a child, I tried to work out where the foreign language transmissions I picked up had come from. When I was a student in Lancaster, RTE 2fm from Ireland (albeit on medium wave, despite the name) accompanied a lot of my allnight essay-writing sessions.

When I’m in another country, I try to listen to the indigenous wireless, even though I can now get most of the stations online at home. This week’s column comes to you from the south west of France, where a quick scan of the tuning dial left me amazed at how close together the many stations sat. There’s barely a ‘gnat’s leg’ (no longer an accepted measure of wavelength since the 1978 frequency changes, but old habits die hard) between them.

Quantity over quality? Not at all. I’ve found myself listening to France Musique a hell of a lot, particularly Alex Dutilh’s Open Jazz programme, which goes out every evening at 6pm (5pm in the UK ). The station has also carried some excellent live music from the Willsau Jazz Festival, not least a storming set from monstrously good drummer Brian Blade and his Fellowship Band. I can see myself listening to France Musique online ( a fair bit back in Gloucestershire.

On previous visits, BBC services have been accessible by satellite, but recent changes to the coverage mean that reception of British radio and television down here is now intermittent at best.

There’s always iPlayer but, as in the UK, rural broadband can be nearly useless. I’m not complaining, the old cliché about change and rest being broadly true. But if I lived here, I might be moved to gripe a little.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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