Media Types: Pure heart and strong arm: The radio producer

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The Independent Online
'YOU DON'T have to be glad to work here, but it helps.' That's the motto that hangs above the desk of every radio producer in the English-speaking world - or London W1A 1AA, as it's known for short.

There are many things that radio producers lack, compared with their televisual colleagues: such as big budgets, wages and perks. But there are also great advantages: fewer meetings and less office politics.

TV production is an art - which is why it can only be achieved in the presence of a degenerate bourgeois audience, usually in the form of several completely redundant young women whose job is to fan themselves with clipboards (ineffectually), answer mobile phones (unhelpfully), and say 'Hi]' to guests (and then lose them).

Radio production, on the other hand, is a craft, and is carried out in a craftworthy manner - quietly, efficiently, cheaply and with pride. Radio producers, like craftsmen everywhere, are given to tousling the locks of their infant offspring, and saying fondly: 'Aye, lad, 'appen we'll make a reet fine tape-cutter of you yet, so we will.'

A television producer, setting out to interview another television producer for a Navel-Gazing On TV: Is There Enough? special, would need at least two minibuses to get him, his gear, and his people all the way across the corridor to the other television producer's office. Whereas a radio producer, charged with finally proving or disproving the existence of the yeti for broadcast before the end of the week, will simply sling a portable tape-recorder into the well-worn slot in her shoulder, stick a canteen sandwich in her pocket, and set off. By bus. She probably won't even take a presenter with her. She can do that job as well.

Naturally, the ascetic high ground of the wireless life does not suit everybody. There are those who see a job behind the glass on Farming Today, say, or Midweek, as merely a stone to be lightly stepped upon as they tapdance their way to TV heaven. In this sense, radio plays the same role to television as the provincial press does to the nationals: the poor relative who trains them up, turns them loose, and never sees them again.

But the typical radio producer stays put because when you've found the real thing, you don't yearn for ersatz eldorados. She knows that almost every decent TV comedy show of the last decade has started off on the sound medium. She knows that actors, broadcasters and comics do the Box for cash, and the cat's whisker for cachet. In her clickety- clackety shoes, floppy skirt and gargantuan shoulder-bag, she knows that radio's superiority lies in the fact that people only look at television - but they listen to radio. She has faith, strength and clarity; and the most important of these is faith.

Television is fuelled by ego. Radio is driven by sheer bloody- minded enthusiasm. It's a story of the pure versus the corrupt, the deceptively simple versus the otiosely involved, the user- affectionate versus the customer- disdainful. And really, put like that, it's hard to see how the radio producer as a species can survive the nihilistic Nineties.