Radio Afghanistan, British Forces Broadcasting Service<br/>Thinking Allowed, Radio 4

Nothing cosy about forces' broadcasting this time around
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The Independent Culture

If memory serves, Family Favourites was a cosy listen, the accompaniment to mum cooking Sunday lunch. All seemed well with the world. Relatively speaking, all was well with the world; the programme lasted from 1945 until 1984, almost all of which was peacetime. Our brave boys may have been stuck out in Cyprus or Germany or some other remnant of Empire, but, barring accidents, they usually it home.

Radio Afghanistan, part of the British Forces Broadcasting Service (on DAB or the BFBS website), has a more dangerous demographic: no guarantees of happy returns. On Thursday, the new station's host Dusty Miller, on the air from Camp Bastion in Helmand province, kept referring to how hectic things had been during the week "given recent events" – the killing of five soldiers by an Afghan police officer they were training. And sometimes there are technical headaches. In fact, said Miller, "Until two minutes before going on air, we weren't going on air."

Kerry-Ann Ratcliffe from Tidworth thought she was just coming on for a chat. She'd spoken to her rifleman husband, "Ratty", the previous day but hadn't been able to get hold of him since. Miller had him in the studio to surprise her ("You sod!" she said). As they chatted, you felt like an intruder.

It wasn't just about connecting with home: there was a piece on a US soldier and his sniffer dog looking for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), while Danny from the Royal Engineers was in the studio appealing for blood donors. It felt like a parallel universe where everything is a matter of life and death.

White-collar crime may seem small beer in comparison, but it does massive damage to the economy, and on the ever estimable Thinking Allowed, Laurie Taylor began a three-part investigation, kicking off with the words of the sociologist Edward Ross, more than a century ago. "The modern high-powered dealer of woe wears immaculate linen and sins with a calm countenance and serene soul," he wrote, "leagues, or months, from the evil he causes." And he'd never even heard of spam, not to mention phishing, smishing or vishing.

At least the police are doing their utmost to fight these "victimless" crimes. Oh no, sorry, my mistake, they're not. As one ex-detective reported, "Fraud squads have been systematically stripped of their manpower to provide resources for other types of crime."

It's not just dodgy accountants and disgruntled little people at it. "Fraud is built into the fabric of the City," said one expert witness, "but was kept in check until Big Bang. They just took off the brakes and all the crooks rose to the top." Send 'em all to Camp Bastion, I say.

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