The Week In Radio: At least Auntie will never axe The Archers

While the BBC was hardly expecting a minute's silence to follow the suggestion that 6 Music should be sacrificed up to the gods of the licence fee, did it actually foresee the howls of pain? The message boards went beserk with bereaved listeners suggesting alternative candidates for chop. One said 6 Music's entire listenership should stump up a tenner, burst into Steve Wright's studio and wrest him from the controls. "How many people watch News 24?" said another. "Does anyone watch BBC3? It's just trash," added someone else. Many volunteered Radio 1Xtra for the axe. Weirdly, one fan wrote of "dreadful rumours like a trail of blood reaching back to David Cameron's Eton smile" presumably because Mark Thompson's review was authored by John Tate, who used to be head of the Conservative policy unit.

This miserable thrashing about is inevitable in a cash-strapped future, in broadcasting, as much as the public sector or anywhere else. Some suggest the proposed sacrifice of 6, saving £6 million a year, was a clever plot by the BBC to divert attention from the £100 million overspend on lavish offices that has just been condemned by the National Audit Office. It was a way of securing newspaper coverage about a low-cost service that people treasure. That certainly worked, given that David Bowie and almost the entire record industry added their voices to the protest. Whether or not 6 Music is saved, the only certainty is that the battle of the cuts is going to get more heated in the run-up to the next settlement.

Yet even when BBC radio is no more than a tiny island of quality bobbing around on a sea of mindless trash, the one programme I can imagine still tinkling over the airwaves is The Archers. Birth and death are big themes right now, represented by the demise of Phil and the demented determination of Helen to find a sperm donor. It's obvious that Helen, whom one always pictures with a mad gleam in her eye, should be kept well away from the syringe. "A baby's about new life, and joy and love. You're painting such a negative picture Dad," she whinged. "It's not all apple cheeks and miniature dungarees," said Tony, grimly. Here's a prime example of how this serial can ricochet between two poles of plausibility. While chatting with your dad about artificial insemination happens absolutely nowhere in Britain except The Archers, in other ways, especially with Phil's death, the facsimile of real life is impressively conveyed.

Mourning becomes The Archers. For a community whose favourite word is "coping" and where feelings always run high, a funeral provides a marvellous chance for arguments and tears. Phil's funeral was searingly real, with all the brave chat about the church flowers and quibbles about the order of service cut through with the dreadful resonance of the word "coffin". It happened that June Spencer, who plays Peggy, appeared on Desert Island Discs this week making slightly patronising remarks about her radio character, and what was curious was just how irrelevant those comments felt. Yes, Peggy may be fiction, whereas June Spencer is flesh and blood. But at its best The Archers attains a meta-reality. Its reality resides in the imaginations of its millions of listeners, its characters imprinted on their own lives. It's the reason why good radio, be it The Archers or 6 Music, can be so fiercely cherished.

When looking into the future is too awful, there's always the past. It's 25 years this week since the miners' strike ended and Radio 2 commemorated the event most movingly in ballad form. It was plainer than ever, hearing from miners on both sides of the picket line, how the strike split parts of England like a civil war. One said the Orgreave conflict reminded him of a medieval battlefield. "Two groups of people with sticks and shields and to cap it all here come the knights on the horses, and I thought this is 1984. Is this the best we can do?"

Yet in other ways, the sound of angry people staring unemployment in the face felt fiercely contemporary. Mothers made do on next to nothing. Children were told there would be no Christmas because "Santa won't cross picket lines". And what lifted this programme beyond documentary and made it such a stunning slice of recent history, was the elegiac voices of the balladeers interwoven with the interviews and actuality. The folk element of these specially commissioned ballads fit perfectly the feeling of a legendary time, with the hurt still sharp before it recedes into the mists of the past. One song called "Here We Go" was unbearably poignant. Radio 2, also under scrutiny from the BBC Trust, has been told to increase its distinctive content and move away from light music and chat. On the evidence of this, it's already succeeding.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable