All hail the new model army of radio presenters

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The Independent Online

Forget about the Hamiltons: this week has seen the return of the kind of shouting match that I had assumed extinct. Back in my day, it was called Generational Warfare: "the kids" squaring up to their elders, giving them what for, and thus propelling the onward march of popular culture.

Alright, alright – the young(ish) participants are not exactly poised at the cutting edge, nor do they fit they stereotype of the fire-spitting teenage insurrectionist. Sara Cox, host of the Radio 1 breakfast show, is a 26-year-old ex-model, about to marry her DJ boyfriend in a secret location in rural Ireland. Her colleague Chris Moyles, meanwhile, is 27, and proudly stands as an emblem of unreconstructed boorishness. He is not the type who goes on anti-corporate demonstrations and blames "The Man" for the world's ills.

But never mind all that. Last Sunday, Terry Wogan picked a fight with them both. Chris and Sara, said Tel, represented a broadcasting style that was "in yer face and sometimes in doubtful taste... It is probably reflective of the downward trend in British education." On Monday, Moyles responded with the Wildean wit for which he has long been famed: "I'm going to hold [Wogan] by the hand, look him in the eye and say 'I love you,' and if he doesn't say it back, I'm going to tear that wig off his head," he said.

I do not count myself among Radio 1's core listenership, and neither should I: the station is aimed at 15- to 24-year-olds, which seems to mean people who split their listening time between Craig David, Hear'Say and this week's latest sensation, the So Solid Crew.

I may occasionally tune in to Mark'n'Lard's afternoon show, which remains an oasis of more mature entertainment, but I have been shunted where I belong: Virgin Radio, whose unique selling point is an hourly "10 Great Songs in a Row" – Oasis, Radiohead, David Bowie's "Heroes" – played between adverts for personal finance and headache tablets. Nonetheless, if Moyles and Cox require reinforcements in their struggle, they can count on my support.

Underlying Terry's outburst is a longing for a world that must never, ever return. He went on to lament "a complete breakdown into niche broadcasting" – which implies nostalgia for the era in which DJs sincerely believed they were addressing the whole nation, only to end up speaking a language only comprehensible to themselves.

Such was the world of mainstream UK radio between 1967 and 1990: Tony Blackburn and his "comedy dog", Arnold; Dave Lee Travis hosting weekly games of "snooker on the radio"; Gary Davies and his mysterious "bit in the middle". The mere mention of them sends a chill down the spine.

Worse still, when it comes to Terry's two grave broadcasting sins, the old guard were far worse offenders than their heirs. There can be few more "in your face" sounds than Noel Edmonds droning on about his helicopter. As for doubtful taste, let us not forget that, just before he left Radio 1, Simon Bates suggested that his Golden Hour should feature a daily item tracing the history of the First World War. Can you imagine? "That was 'In The Army Now' by Status Quo – and talking of which, it's time for us to remember the carnage and heartbreak of Passchendaele." Lovely.

In the context of atrocities like that, the new breed are truly model presenters. Besides, there are occasions when they scrape the outer limits of brilliance.

Take, for example, Sara Cox's comments on Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, made on an Ibizan beach on the morning of the old dear's 100th birthday.

"She smells of wee, but we all love her," Sara blurted out, doubtless still fuzzy from the night before. Diddy David Hamilton was never as funny as that.