Magazine article The Spectator

Radio the Comfort of Strangers

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio the Comfort of Strangers

Article excerpt

Blink and you would have missed it, but Wednesday was World Radio Day, devoted to celebrating radio 'as a medium'. You might think the BBC would welcome this Unesco initiative 'to promote freedom of expression over the airwaves' and 'improve international co-operation between broadcasters', but there's nothing in Radio Times about it, and nothing on the various network websites. It's as if radio has become such an established part of British life there's no need to give it special treatment, to celebrate its existence as a way of ensuring its survival.

Only on the World Service, buried in the schedule, could you find on Wednesday a special edition of World Have Your Say, live from Paris, with snippets of great radio moments taken from stations around the world. Later that same day, in Sharing It All, Ros Atkins tried to find out why some of the regular contributors to World Have Your Say, which encourages its listeners from across the globe 'to set the agenda', are willing to speak out to a potential 43 million listeners on matters which are often so intensely personal. Their confessions were riveting.

Take Lubna, a 26-year-old doctor from Baghdad who's been speaking out 'live' on the programme since 2006. Her family have told her she should shut up, but she's determined to carry on, sharing with the outside world how she feels about what's been happening in her home country. 'It's beneficial, ' she says. Fair enough. But what made my thumbs prick is her assertion that speaking out to a crowd of strangers, 'helps to make her personal experiences richer'.

Something quite new is going on here;

something unprecedented. One of the students who was on Utoeya Island when Anders Breivik opened fire and gunned down as many young people as he could find has been talking to listeners to the World Service programme almost since the day it happened in July 2011. Adrian had tried to swim away from the island but soon gave up realising it would be too far to reach safety.

He swam back to find the gunman was on the shore waiting for him. Adrian now says that telling his story as often as he can to people he doesn't know and cannot see is helping him deal with the terrifying feelings he experienced on that day. Not to his family or his friends - 'They're in the safe zone, ' says Adrian - but to an anonymous public.

Also in Norway, the sister of another survivor told Ros Atkins how in the traumatic couple of days when she didn't know whether her sister was alive or one of Breivik's victims, she didn't really talk to her family but rather spent her time online, on Facebook and Twitter, where she found 'just love all around'. …

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