Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: 'World on the Move' Day

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: 'World on the Move' Day

Article excerpt

Monday's 'World on the Move Day' on Radio 4 was a bold challenge to government policy and proof that radio is much the most flexible, the most accommodating, the most powerful medium when compared with TV. Without much ado, the day's planned schedule was squeezed, manipulated, overturned to allow the team behind the Today programme to mastermind a live discussion throughout the day about the migration issue, as if to say to the government, here's what people not just in the UK but from around the world care about. Let's listen to them and see what solutions they might have to offer.

Angelina Jolie Pitt was the biggest prize as she took over the You and Yours slot to lead a live lunchtime debate on Radio 4 and the World Service that looked beyond the overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean and the homeless refugees queuing up on the borders of the EU to the migrants who have already arrived but not settled and to the reluctant hosts themselves who are not always so welcoming or accommodating. Why did she choose to use this forum? Because it gave her immediate access to a global audience. But not only that. She knows that speaking on the BBC gives her an authority, a cachet that surpasses her own glamour. Ponder that, Mr Whittingdale.

The BBC's pulling power depends on its back story, those 90 years of producing programmes like Science Stories , Radio 4's attempt to breathe life into areas of knowledge that for many are offputting or misunderstood. On Wednesday night Naomi Alderman looked at the myths about Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp, forever imagined as the ultimate nurse, gentle, self-effacing, a vision of charity in her nun-like habit. Nonsense, said Alderman. Even her own sister, Parthenope, thought Florence was 'a shocking nurse', driven not by compassion but by ambition. She was an intellectual, who aged nine was writing letters to her mother in French and at 16 worked into the night on her Greek homework.

When she arrived at Scutari on the outskirts of Istanbul, less than a fortnight after the horrors of the Charge of the Light Brigade, she was shocked not so much by the stench of blood, the terrible wounds, the inhumanity she witnessed, but by the chaos, the lack of any organisation, the way that individual deaths were not even recorded. …

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