Magazine article The Spectator

Noises Off

Magazine article The Spectator

Noises Off

Article excerpt

Radio

Noises off

Michael Vestey

A friend who preferred to listen to Radio Two in the mornings and Radio Four at other times of the day mentioned that he'd given up an old favourite on Two, the former Jimmy Young Show now presented by Jeremy Vine. He found it to be too noisy after the calmer, measured tones of Young, who was forcibly retired by the Radio Two controller because he'd reached 80.

Tuning in recently, I knew what he meant. Vine, a perfectly accomplished interviewer but no better than Young as far as I can hear, is more frenetic in his style and speaks faster. It so happened that on this particular day one of Vine's topics was noise, not the kind made by him, but that of others around him. Armed with a tape recorder he had noticed that morning a blast from a coffee machine, a pneumatic drill, an aircraft overhead, a loud woman at the next table with what he called 'an unbroadcastable laugh' and three mobile phones ringing. Is this the price we pay for progress? he asked. My friend might tell him, now that he no longer listens to the programme, that it's not a price he's prepared to pay.

The peg for the subject was the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights overturning an earlier legal ruling that would have banned night flights on the grounds of unacceptable noise. Had the court decided otherwise a group of residents would have used to it argue that the proposed third runway at Heathrow would breach their individual rights under the European Convention. In a discussion Richard D. North, the writer on environmental issues, took the sensible view that quietness was not a human right and that if he chose to live near an airport such as Heathrow he could hardly expect to experience tranquillity. I imagine my friend, the Radio Two defector, has now found peace and quiet because he couldn't face the Radio Four alternative, You and Yours starting at the same time, noon. Apart from Radio Three, there's really only Radio Five Live and Classic FM left.

Another topic in the programme was the detention at Guantanamo Bay of two British al-Qa'eda suspects, Feroz Abbasi, 23, from Croydon, and Moazzam Begg, 35, from Birmingham. They are among the first of 680 people classified as 'enemy combatants' to be tried by military tribunals - since suspended after the Blair intervention - and the Americans believe they have strong evidence against them, though we haven't been told precisely what it is yet. …

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