ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
SO FAREWELL, then, Radio 5. The BBC announcedthis week that the station's frequency is to be given over to the new, pounds 30m 'rolling' news and sport network from next April. The new service does not yet have a name, but Tony Hall, managing director of BBC news and current affairs, has described it as 'a newspaper of the airwaves'. It is taken for granted that this is wanted. I'm sure it will have its adherents: it is hard to please none of the people all of the time. But what a shame that it should bag a whole channel. Think about it: 24 hours of news and sport a day, every day of the year.

Long ago, I went for an interview at the BBC, for a news traineeship. One of the things they told us, as they sat us down to write a news piece, was that broadcasters spoke at 180 words a minute. That means the new channel will be burbling out 260,000 words of news and sport a day, and 95 million words a year. How much news do you want? How much sport is there?

I would be the last person to defend Radio 5, whose jump-cut programming often seems designed to deter regular listeners. But its replacement strikes me as worse. I speak with some authority: I was offered the job. (But didn't take it.)

IN ANY list of the worst films of all time, Body of Evidence, starring Madonna,would have to be a strong contender. When it came out in the cinema, it was universally derided. It has none the less been issued on video. And it is now No 2 in the video chart. Clearly some of its success can be put down to the dirty-mac brigade, sweatily carrying it home in the hope of seeing those few parts of Madonna's anatomy that have not been seen in other media. But that can't be the whole story. It raises the question: can a film be so bad that it flops on video? Perhaps someone in the business could enlighten me.

TWO WEEKS ago I urged readers to get down to John Menzies, where sightings had been made of the Beatles' new CD sets, 1962- 1966 and 1967-1970, priced at pounds 19.99, which was pounds 7 less than certain chainstores were charging. Now comes word that Menzies at Euston is charging pounds 23.99. So look before you leap.

I also wrote about the fact that the boxed versions of the sets were on sale only at HMV. HMV responded by sending me them. I am, of course, unable to accept corporate generosity, so I thought I'd offer the sets in a competition.

It's based on the classicgripe that fans have with compilations - one of their favourites is left out. Just choose a set, and say which song you feel is the gravest omission from it, and why. The best reason wins. Each set contains a double CD, a 12-page booklet, a poster and a badge, is numbered, and retails at pounds 26.99. Postcards, please, by Monday, 25 October. Usual rules apply, the editor's decision is final, and please, don't pay full price if you can help it.