Radio: It's just the same old ball game

It's holiday time, which, what with the weird remoteness of Norfolk, and the car radio being on the fritz again, meant no FM reception last week. Those of you with good memories and empty, unfulfilled lives will remember that I went through a similar ordeal two or three months ago and made a kind of coded plea for broadcasters to pay a little more attention to medium- and long-wave broadcasting, as that is all that large swathes of the population can receive.

It was obviously a little too well encoded, for things have got worse even since then. Part of the reason is the start of the football season. Like most people, I don't give two hoots about football except for one or two matches a year, so find AM radio's grovelling capitulation to the sport a little hard to bear.

Both Radio 5 Live and Talk Radio now seem to offer nothing but hysterical football coverage, and on the rare occasions when games aren't happening, there is either some in-depth analysis of Ruud Gullit's departure from Newcastle or a trailer for a forthcoming match which consists of clips of previous hysterical football coverage.

Of course, radio football commentary has to be hysterical if it is to convey any of the actual excitement of a 1-1 draw at Coventry; and to be passionate enough about the game to want to listen to it on the radio implies that you are already in the grip of some kind of dementia anyway.

So, if I rule out the football channels and Radio 4 long wave, which I have gone on enough about previously, this leaves only two nationwide stations on the dial that can be picked up north of Royston: Virgin Radio and Atlantic 252.

Even for the trained professional such as myself, it is hard to tell these two stations apart. A few weeks ago I heard a presenter on Atlantic make an amusing joke about the pollen count ("every lunchtime they make us go out and count the pollen, and I hate it"), but that's about it as far as differentiation between the DJs goes. They either sound completely forgettable or like Chris Moyles, the fat, big-headed bully on Radio 1, which is worse.

And the playlists are identical. Sometimes you might think Atlantic is more hidebound and unimaginative than Virgin, sometimes vice-versa, but this is not so much evidence of a different mind behind the programming as just part of the statistical ebb and flow.

Someone visiting the UK (Atlantic also broadcasts in Ireland) and listening to either of these stations (and Radio 1 if they like), would come to the conclusion that there are only five records available for purchase in the country. Which are: that stomach-churningly mawkish one about the girl who has the secret smile - not exactly a secret any longer; that new one from the New Radicals; some drivel from Alanis Morissette; "Drinking in LA" by that actually quite good band with the strangely forgettable name; and - will this song ever be consigned to the rubbish dump of the airwaves? - "The Sweetest Thing" by U2. This last technically fulfils Atlantic's promise to play us the "best" music from both Britain and Ireland).

As for the ads - don't get me started on the ads. They may be very marginally less irritating than they were, say, 10 years ago but they still make you want to hurl yourself out of the car, especially when you've heard them for the fifty-sixth time. Our hypothetical visitor, restricted to listening to commercial radio, would also conclude that, along with our five songs, we have only five commercial products to fiddle with while listening to them.

This is shopping-precinct culture: just as there is nowadays no way to tell the difference between the pedestrian zones of King's Lynn, Cambridge, Winchester, Norwich, Gloucester (continue list until all market town names are used up), so there is no way to tell the difference between the daytime output of any pop music station.

The Mark and Lard show on Radio 1 - 2pm to 4pm - has, it would appear, been nobbled by such forces but at least they try and resist, usually with dumb insolence. "Fancy a bit of George Michael?" Mark Radcliffe asked Lard, his co-presenter, recently. "No," said Lard grumpily. "Too bad", said Radcliffe. Even to raise the question of whether this is what people want or just what they get, is considered indecent.

I did manage to listen to one FM programme, Radio 2's The Day War Broke Out, broadcast on the 60th anniversary of the day before the day before the day before the Second World War I broke out. Narrated by Tony "Baldrick" Robinson, this was hardly a milestone of creative original radio, and could have been broadcast at any anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. But Radio 2 is hardly the home of creative original broadcasting so you can't really moan.

There were quite a few good stories. One evacuee, seeing a parish magazine in the hall of their new home, said to his friend: "You know what this means Eddie? They go to church. We've got to think quick otherwise we'll be going." They pretended to be Congregationalists but this backfired horribly when it turned out that Cook was too, and the man who told that story is now a vicar in the Anglican Church. So, who knows? I might yet become a DJ on Virgin Radio.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor