radio review

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The Independent Culture
These are glory days for Premiere, London's Christian radio station ("Good News - great music!"). On Monday it was catapulted into the headlines when a businessman phoned up the station to offer pounds 25,000 to the unnamed woman who was at that point believed to be on the point of having a healthy twin foetus aborted, if she would keep the child - an issue that kept Premiere's phone-ins occupied until late on Tuesday night. And after that came the whole "life on Mars" issue, a God-send for a station supposedly concerned with things that are not of this world.

I say "supposedly" because much of the time you would hardly know this is a Christian station. The music is mostly soft rock with no obvious theological subtext - at a pinch "I Wanna Make It With You", a tune that seems to get a lot of airplay, could be taken as an allegory of the mystical union of Christ and the Church, but where does that leave us with George Michael and "Careless Whispers", or Neil Sedaka's "Laughter in the Rain"? And much of the chat is pretty secular ("Any Martians out there this morning?" quips the DJ doing the breakfast show. "No," says the man doing the travel bulletin, "but plenty of traffic, I'll tell you that").

Every so often, though, God does pop up in that mysterious way - on yesterday morning's round-up of the press, for instance, the guest speaker, a man from the Baptist Times, put coverage of Alan Shearer's arrival at Newcastle in perspective: "I just take some comfort that Alan Shearer has a pounds 15m price tag and will not go down in history. The man that I serve, Lord Jesus Christ, had a 30 pieces of silver price tag and will go down in history." Well yes, you think, but did he have the pace and the killer instinct we look for in a top-class striker?

Still, that sort of irrelevance is made up for by Martin Mitchell, who spent much of yesterday morning fending off listeners' responses to the suggestion that there may have been life on Mars with exemplary gentleness and intelligence. While Mitchell's own view seemed to be that this is just more evidence of God's bounty, many of the callers seemed to be drifting in the direction of Joseph from Muswell Hill, who phoned to point out that the Prince of Darkness puts knowledge in men. As Mitchell had already pointed out to Colette from Leyton, "He said to Isaiah, 'Come, let us reason together' - He wants us to use our noodles." You can't say fairer than that.

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