Magazine article The Spectator

End of the World

Magazine article The Spectator

End of the World

Article excerpt

It's your last chance this afternoon to catch one of the best programmes on Radio Four, guaranteed to come up each week with something a bit different: an unusual voice or opinion or insight. For the last couple of years it's been infuriatingly easy to miss, broadcast at 5.30 on a Saturday afternoon when you're either too exhausted by a week's worth of chores to listen to anything other than Mantovani (or Monteverdi, depending on your taste) or too busy revving up for a night out to pay attention to something so densely packed with information. But in its nineyear run A World in Your Ear has always given its listeners an unusual opportunity to find out what's going on in the world beyond Portland Place and the White City not via BBC reporters (as in Crossing Continents and From Our Own Correspondent or on the World Service) but by tuning into radio stations around the globe. In the last couple of weeks alone we've heard from stations in Buenos Aires, Azerbaijan, Istanbul, Prague, Warsaw, the Vatican, Iowa and Minnesota, as well as all the usual suspects, ABC in Australia, CBC in Canada and Radio New Zealand.

The title comes from an advertising jingle once used by the BBC's World Service, but this programme offers something different. Although what you hear has been selected and edited by a team of BBC producers (led by Rosie Goldsmith and Lucy Ash), the reports all come directly from the foreign stations, with their different perspectives and prejudices. Good Morning Afghanistan, for instance, which broadcasts in Pashtu and Dari, gave its avid band of listeners in Kabul an unexpectedly frank account of the capture and killing of the Taleban leader, Mullah Dadullah, by US-led forces. 'We have his body. You can see the evidence.' Well, not quite. We were given an English translation of how the reporter, speaking in Pashtu, had described Dadullah to his listeners. He was, he said, 'a wild butcher murderer' who 'slit the throats of Muslims'. Somehow I suspect it was a lot more vivid in Pashtu.

From Baghdad, we heard from Ahmed Rikabi, the founding director of Radio Dijla, set up in April 2004 to broadcast to Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians and Jews, and famous for its cross-community call-in programmes which began in vitriol and mud-slinging but which are now beginning to reflect some kind of unified response to what is happening in Iraq. …

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