Wave power washes gently around Auntie

A GENTEEL crowd of protesters, waving balloons and chanting politely, marched on Broadcasting House in central London yesterday to decry BBC plans to use Radio 4 Long Wave for a continuous news network, writes Cal McCrystal.

Calling out their slogansin received pronunciation, the nicely dressed multitude assembled at Hyde Park Corner from many corners of the nation as well as a few corners of foreign fields (small contingents from France, Holland and Germany claimed that the transferral of Radio 4 programmes to an FM waveband will make them inaudible to Continental listeners).

Quite a few of the men wore beards, anoraks, polo-neck sweaters, cream corduroy trousers and aggrieved frowns. Many of the women might have been heading for a gymkhana. They often led the chanting: 'What do we want?' 'Long Wave]' 'How do we ask?' 'Pleeease]' Civility and solicitude were not wanting.

Having marched to BBC headquarters, the protesters formed a semi-circle in front of the building. It would be an exaggeration to say that a section of the crowd of about 400 then stormed the entrance; rather, they were wafted towards it, their coloured balloons aloft, by temperate urging that required no intervention by police escorts. No scuffles broke out. When a balloon exploded, many nearby almost swooned.

The protest was billed as an opportunity for Radio 4 listeners to demonstrate their concerns about the proposed change which, the organisers suggested, was the work of 'latter-day Romanovs' at Broadcasting House. The point about 'Romanovs' was the closest the march got to a full- scale uprising. Certain tense- looking men did wear red berets, but these were explained as necessary identification for 'our lawyers and the like'.

But there were just as many pistachio-green berets to counterbalance the revolutionary headgear. All, with their balloons, soon floated away.

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