Monitor: The trouble with talk radio in the me-now age - what the papers are saying

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RADIO 4 has lost hundreds of thousands of listeners following its radical revamp. Its audience has slumped below eight million for the first time since ratings began. (Listeners) have complained that the daily lunchtime bulletin is now too short to cover the major developments of the day. Panorama interviewer Martin Bashir took over from Cliff Morgan and Sport on Four in the new schedule. On one day alone, the BBC received 35 calls bemoaning the loss of Morgan. Home Truths Radio 1 DJ John Peel's Saturday morning show on family life features everything from children's nicknames and listeners' poems to the problems of being an absent father. The hour-long programme has been roundly attacked with one critic saying it didn't belong on Radio 4 because of its lack of any real content.

- Daily Mail

TALK RADIO: Who wants Warhol's 15 minutes of fame when you can have 60 seconds talking to Nicky Campbell on Radio 5? On Classic FM, presenters follow a recording of Mahler by chatting to Miss Prune in Hove about the great musical influences in her life: her Uncle Cecil teaching her Chopsticks; her first boyfriend giving her a recording of Richard Clayderman for their first Christmas. Many phone-in programmes do not rise above the banality of the telephone or internet chatline. Phone-ins have their place, but talk radio should fish for talent from wider pools than that of British Telecom.

- Glasgow Herald

FOR OUR "me, now" age of fast food, fast photo and instant Nirvana, an enterprising book-lover has come up with the capital idea of providing suitable, "fast read" literature for millions of railway commuters. The new "commuter books" will soon be available at railway platforms just as we buy soft drinks, candies and weight cards from slot machines. The idea is to insert a coin and select (a commuter book) which provides about an hour's reading material printed on a single sheet and folded like a map. The mini-books are red for "bang-bang" or crime stories and blue for "kiss-kiss" or romance fiction. Like TV soaps, the "slotted books" afford a satisfying consummation to life's problems in 45 minutes flat, and the commuter detrains in a state of wafted romance, crime punished and passion requited.

- Times of India

NEW AGE angels are far hipper than their forebears. Remember Clarence with his proper suit and beatific smile in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life? His postmodern kindred wouldn't be caught, uh, dead in those fuddy- duddy threads. In City of Angels, this year's remake of the German art film Wings of Desire, angel Nicolas Cage is depressed but fashionable in a long Hugo Boss overcoat. No halo. No wings. John Travolta's archangel in Michael similarly hid his floor-length feathers under a topcoat, favoured jeans and enjoyed a good barroom boogie. In a recent episode of The X- Files, the heavenly messengers bore no resemblance whatsoever to the cherubic Clarence. They took the form of autistic teenage girls with 12 fingers and toes and impacted wings.

- Washington Post

TELEVISION HELD up a mirror to itself last week. And oh, what foul beasts were glimpsed in its reflection. In Brain Surgeons from Hell (Monday BBC2), comedy scriptwriter Andy Hamilton delivered this year's Huw Weldon Memorial lecture, a boisterous yet devastating attack on tumbling standards in TV, the boom in banality, the slide into moronism. Top of Hamilton's hit- list was real life. This is television as a parade of high emotion and pointless passion, in which we dip in and out of other people's lives, landing briefly on their exposed nerve ends and then hopping off. It finds its fullest expression in daytime chat shows. Here, increasingly, the whole point is to trigger emotional bombs among its participants to get them to froth up, weep, holler, or fall apart to order. Television should be biased in favour of reason. But the pendulum, alas, is fast swinging the other way.

- John Preston, Sunday Telegraph