"Broadcasters pass the sternest of tests" was the headline over a typical piece of Fleet Street media-commentary this week, which asserted that "the resources and skills are there in spades when called on". Bouquets all round then - for BBCtv, ITV, MTV, QVC, and Sky. By Wednesday, when that article appeared, television had indeed made the Diana story its own, but any bouquets for achievement last Sunday morning should by rights have gone to radio.

By 7.00am James Naughtie and his team had had just three hours in which to prepare a response to the Princess's death, yet the programme they compiled - with the world asleep and the barest of details to go on - was both first-rate news-journalism and an obituary to which none heard later that day had anything significant to add. Its tone was an impeccable blend of tact and professionalism.

While television was stuck in the studio with its resident royal-watchers - who swiftly ran out of things to say - Naughtie and co ranged far and wide, catching people before they'd had time to put their mask in place. A former spokeswoman for the Princess was in such a state of shock that she was literally unable to speak; a "reformed" paparazzo blithely regretted his lost earnings after abjuring the royal chase. As the day progressed, impromptu candour of this kind was decorously ironed out.

By mid-afternoon, television was still squeezing pathetic scraps of "news" from its wrung-out court correspondents: the Rashomon-like quest for the truth had at that stage not even begun. Meanwhile the combined forces of Radios 2, 3, 4 and 5 were offering an impressively considered discussion about the tragedy's implications. By the end of the day, television had reasserted its dominance - with such massive resourcess, how could it not? - but, for those with ears to hear, a point had been made. Radio can be faster, more flexible, and much more analytical.

On the other hand, BBC Radio's musical response was riven with inconsistency. It was fitting that slow movements by Mozart, Elgar and Vaughan Williams should fill the air on Sunday; Nicholas Kenyon's introduction to that night's Prom - "If we believe in the power of music to heal..." - was gracefully apposite, as was the choice of Nimrod for its opening piece. But the decision to prune Monday's pre-planned Radio 3 playlist led to some curious anomalies, the most notable of which was the dropping of Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Defunte. Far from being "inappropriate" - the official term - this piece would have been all too perfectly appropriate. And sure enough, there it was on television later that day, serving as backing-music for a Diana retrospective. But music is often perceived as emotionally dangerous stuff: look at the potency of "Candle in the Wind".

Today the radio channels will merge again, to acknowledge the sad pageant from London to Brington. But, throughout the week, death has also lurked elsewhere. On Tuesday, a breezy new series of Cross Questioned (Radio 4) opened under the chairmanship of the late Vincent Hanna. "The programmes were recorded shortly before his death, but he would have appreciated our continuing with them," said an announcer, quite correctly.

The BBC World Service's excellent tribute to Nusrat Ali Khan - the man who put Pakistani qawwali singing on the map, and who died last month - should be re-broadcast on domestic radio.

Had the Princess been alive to listen to the radio this week, two programmes might have held her riveted. David Rieff's Chronicle of a Catastrophe Foretold (Radio 4, Thursday) explored the paradox that humanitarian aid had systematically fed the perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda. And John Simpson's Out of the Fire (Radio 4, last Saturday) followed the fortunes of a Sarajevan couple who had survived bombs and bullets together, but were finally put asunder for the crime of coming from different ethnic backgrounds.

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