Magazine article The Spectator

Getting Real

Magazine article The Spectator

Getting Real

Article excerpt

If, like me, you're struggling to keep up with all the different ways you can now listen to music, watch your favourite videos and soaps, blog your own thoughts, reveal your own 'reality', join in with making programmes, document your life, then you'll be relieved to discover the results of the latest survey by Ofcom, the government's telecommunications office (a New Labour quango now installed in a rather fancy location on the South Bank). More and more of us are switching on to the entertainment possibilities of the internet (our Victorian ancestors would be horrified by so much effort spent on technological developments that are essentially 'toys'), but only 17 per cent of respondents said that they listened to less 'traditional' radio because of this.

In fact 14 per cent said that they now spent more time tuning in to the radio off line, tempted by its accessibility, its mobility, its sense of immediacy. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, except that it massages my own sense of panic that I'm not keeping up to be told that, although British webusers are turning away from TV and newspapers 'once they have broadband', radio is somehow less affected by this media revolution. (Have you ever tried listening to a back number of The Archers by old-fashioned modem? Every so often it blips, usually at key moments, just as David is talking to Jill, or Ruth to Usha. ) We are being endlessly encouraged by the BBC's presenters to key into the Corporation's myriad websites, emailing, offloading, inloading, overloading.

But its radio channels have so far not been panicked into indulging in too much 'audience' participation, too much celebrity-baiting, too much questionably real 'reality'.

In this week's Between the Ears (Radio Three, Saturday), Dermot Healy, the Irish poet and novelist, told us about his own unquestionably real reality. For reasons beyond our ken, he has settled in a house on the edge of the ocean in County Sligo. 'I don't know about this, ' said Helen (presumably his partner), as on their first night they lay down to sleep on a mattress on the floor, the wind howling outside, the floor underneath them thumping as waves the height of a cliff were crashing on to the rocks beyond the north gable.

In 'The Edge', we were taken into Healy's world, the fire roaring as rain lashed the galvanised roof, a white crack of lightning seen through the window as it streaked across the Atlantic, 'the sea ouside like an echo in the head'. …

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