Magazine article The Spectator

Here's an Idea . .

Magazine article The Spectator

Here's an Idea . .

Article excerpt

I really, really wish I could change places this week and become a TV critic.

Nothing on radio has quite matched the drama of that extraordinarily necessary BBC2 documentary, The Fallen, which in three long hours commemorated each and every one of the British soldiers who have died in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Or, in fabulous contrast, the sheer laughability of John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing. The SCD factor is a throwback to an earlier era, a sequinned equivalent of the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. It takes families back to the Ovaltineys, when parents and children were pictured sitting round a shiny brown box in the living-room, sharing the moment. SCD is not designed for any age-group, gender, relationship, creed or colour. It's just old-fashioned variety, like the Talent Contests of the 1950s and 1960s, before Britain got cool and swinging, when children and adults alike made fools of themselves and didn't care.

Where, now, can you find such familybonding fun on radio? Yes, of course, if you have children you may have heard of Go4it on Radio Four on Sunday evenings. It's engaging, it's informative, and better still it involves children in listening to the radio.

On Sunday, for instance, Barney Harwood was in Liverpool for the Free Thinking Festival, where he asked a panel of children: what one thing would you do to make the world a better place? But the programme lasts a bare 30 minutes and is so deeply hidden in the schedules that it's almost impossible to find. It's never given one of those puffed-up advertorials, and in any case goes out at a time when most families are rushing around trying to get things ready for school on Monday morning. Why is there nothing on Radio Four for children on weekdays at peak time in the early evening, let alone Radio Three? What about a children's version of PM, for instance. Or an edition of Discovering Music, which gives us a child'seye view of classical music versus pop, Bach versus Beyoncé. Why does everything now have to be parcelled up in separate portions for distinctive audiences, so that children go to CBeebies, teenagers to Heart or Facebook and weary old adults to their BlackBerries or Radio Four? It's very divisive and means as adults that we lose out on being reminded of the kind of reasoning which children engage in, before the grown-ups' curse of compromise sets in. …

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