Magazine article The Spectator

Short Shrift

Magazine article The Spectator

Short Shrift

Article excerpt

Radio

It was television's moment, really, the dreadful, unprecedented pictures of passenger jets crashing into the World Trade Center in New York. The radio would have to come later, calmly marshalling as many facts as possible and trying to make sense of something that most of us cannot comprehend.

I was in Umbria watching a satellite feed of ITN's 24-hour news, occasionally dipping into a relay of Radio Four, which extended PM and the Six O'Clock News. The World Service covered it well and was probably the first station in Britain to announce that a disaster of some sort had taken place. Steve Evans, the New York business correspondent, was actually in the foyer of the one of the towers when the aircraft struck. He went straight on a World Service news programme which was extended for 33 hours, becoming the longest in its history.

However, if you lived in the United States you wouldn't have been able to hear it on short-wave radio, only on the Internet or via local station re-broadcasts. Several weeks after mentioning the ridiculous costcutting decision to cease short-wave broadcasts to North America and Australasia, I am still receiving indignant letters and e-- mails from readers. David Greenwood e-- mailed from Fiji to say that he now listened to WS re-broadcasts on his local station FM96 because his short-wave radio was stolen. He thought, though, that in times of crisis it was important to have short-wave radio since the local station might at any time be taken off the air or invaded by insurgents. He had found this useful in the past, when he was in Uganda during the Idi Amin coup, the coup in the Seychelles and those in Fiji. He must be coup-prone.

John Everett in London found to his horror that WS short-wave broadcasts were no longer available when he visited Alaska and was appalled by the lack of consultation about the decision. Robert Ward wrote from Australia to say that he had retired early and moved from Sydney to Newcastle, the second largest city in New South Wales, but had 'foolishly overlooked that the further you go from multi-ethnic Sydney the more exposed you are to Pombaiting and hating'. For that reason the WS took on a greater importance. I assume it's a Mr Hill who wrote a letter from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, to say that he had a short-wave radio in every room solely for the purpose of listening to the World Service. …

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