Hello, is there anyone there?

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The Independent Online
Dear Anna,

I've never written to an agony aunt before but I have this problem. I can't get away from this feeling that no one listens when I speak. Whenever I say anything it is just greeted with a deafening silence. What should I do? Anna? Anna? Are you listening? Is there anyone out there?

I was pleased to hear that Anna Raeburn is taking a pay cut. It's not that I have anything against agony aunts making money out of other people's distress. (How could a journalist object to that?) It's not even just that taking a drop in salary from pounds 180,000 a year will help her to identify more with the problems of us ordinary folk.

She has jacked in her aural problem page with Liberty Radio, the London station backed by Mohamed al Fayed - of Harrods and plain brown envelope fame - and moved back to her old slot on Talk Radio where she is reported to earn a mere pounds 100,000. The problem at Liberty, which was previously an all-woman station called Viva - or Vulva as Bob Geldof used rather rudely to call it - was that no one used to ring for her advice. The station only has 93,000 listeners (according to one week's official ratings) and the straight-talking counsellor was reduced to playing records.

I find this rather reassuring. It shows that large amounts of money don't always buy people. Not just Ms Raeburn, though one must applaud her self- respect in deciding that mega-dosh was not ample recompense for broadcasting into a vacuum. But it shows that even in our marketing-driven world you can't buy audiences either.

There have been earlier signs of this. Sky TV recently decided to "rest" Selina Scott's chat show less than six months after signing what the Murdoch tabloids reported as a pounds 1m contract. One non-Murdoch tabloid recently reported that one of her shows attracted an audience of just 6,000 viewers. (Sky's average is 300,000 and its top shows get a million.)

Even in our lowest common denominator celebrity culture, lubricated with large amounts of dosh, they can't, it seems, fool all the people all of the time. We should have learnt that from Kevin Costner's movie turkey Waterworld, Topol's gruesomely amateurish West End musical Ziegfield, or HarperCollins' pounds 3.5m advance for the memoirs of Margaret Thatcher which turned out to be a loss leader in every sense of the term, failing to recoup anything like the amount paid out for it, in one of Rupert Murdoch's rare, but spectacular, miscalculations.

This celebration of the failure of celebrity is not mere schadenfreude. It is rather a salutary comfort to the rest of us non-famous plodders who are haplessly mired in a puritan work ethic which - terribly anachronistically - links reward with effort and sound planning.

One other example comes to mind. That unhappy football team, Middlesbrough - about to be relegated from the Premier League - made the mistake of thinking that grafting pounds 27m of foreign flair on to dull base stock could buy them success. But I am too superstitious to say any more about that before the Cup Final on Saturday.

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