The Week In Radio

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The Independent Culture
"HELLO," SAID Michael Buerk, brow corrugating with concern. "When Bev - we're not going to use her last name - got married for the second time, her husband, Vince, appeared to be just the new start she was looking for, both for herself and and her three children..."

Predictably, Vince turned out to be a wrong 'un. In fact he'd been a wrong 'un all along, as Bev told The Choice (BBC Radio 4, Tuesdays 9am, repeated Tuesdays 9.30 pm), a half-hour dissection of a moral dilemma by which to empty the dishwasher. Bev met Vince in "a Christian community". She knew he had done four years in jail for robbery. She'd been warned about his volatility.

Vince was, she said, "the strongest and cruellest person I've ever met in my life". They were married within a month. Soon after, he started to hit her and abuse the kids. This, like The Choice, went on for some time. Bev couldn't just scoop up the children and walk out. She had little money, and nowhere to go. Her moral dilemma was whether or not to go to the police. If she did, Vince would be arrested and bailed, then return to terrorise his family. The children would have to appear in court. But what Bev lacked in judgement of character, she made up for in courage. She reported the brute, and he got eight years. There may be many women in Bev's former state of torment. Let's hope they got something from the full half-hour of her experience and its repeat later the same day. This topic is otherwise only tackled on daytime TV or in Woman's Hour's "Men - Aren't They Bastards?" discussions.

"Call Eddie Mair for an exchange of experiences and views on today's topical issues," suggests the Radio Times billing for The Exchange (BBC Radio 4, Tuesdays, 3pm). What was the "topical issue" last Tuesday? Can Trimble carry the Unionists? Will the reformists be crushed in Tehran? Heck, no. It was "Awards - Do They Matter?" The peg on which this topical issue hung was the recent awards ceremony for teachers. A feeble peg - which might have sparked a serious debate on, erm... teaching - but that's me being picky. It didn't stop David from Oxfordshire calling Eddie. David had won an award - for the Best Non-Fiction Christian Book of 1998. Being a winner, he felt, draws attention, and "the phone starts to ring". Recognition in the Non-Fiction Christian Book field is important, as "the creative environment can be quite lonely". The same is true, I am finding, of radio criticism.

Jeff, a "non-musician" from Kent, has not been decorated for services beyond the call of duty (accountancy) and he was feeling a bit wounded. He'd noticed there was no military march in honour of the Queen Mother. So he wrote one for her, as a "non-musician" must, by humming into a tape- recorder. The Palace thought it was a proper toe-tapper and had it arranged by the Royal Military School of Music. It was played as the old girl asked bird-brained well-wishers "Have you come far?" at her 98th birthday knees- up. But Jeff is still not Sir Jeff. The Queen Mum didn't even drop him a postcard. Nevertheless, he felt the Honours are "a good national incentive... people study them like the racing results."

Nicolette in Manchester told us of her numerous awards for "being in the top ten for Sales". "Good," murmured Eddie, with all the conviction of a chap simultaneously studying the finishers at Uttoxeter on Ceefax. Nicolette, however, was buzzing on success and called for "Oscars for everything". Until her demands are met, I shouldn't imagine The Exchange, like other cheap fillers in the daytime R4 schedule, will be overly detaining the judges for the radio Oscars or Sony Awards.

Next Tuesday The Exchange sits in the middle of a whole day of programmes to mark the 30th anniversary of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the Moon, which promises to be Radio 4 at its best. What will be the phone-in's topical issue that day? May I suggest "Trousers - time for a rethink?"