Sarah Sands: The camera <i>does</i> lie, but not the radio

If you really want to know what's what, tune in
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The Independent Online

Tomorrow evening, the stars of radio will gather at a fancy London hotel for the industry Sony awards. This is not exactly Anna Wintour's Met Ball. The press photographers would find it hard to differentiate between the ungroomed and bespectacled, and no newspaper wants photographs of celebrities where you need captions for identification. Radio's invisibility is its greatest asset.

I listened to a new Radio 4 programme last week called Devil's Advocate, which featured the sexually disgraced former Blue Peter television presenter John Leslie. He was ruined by fame. It never would have happened to him if he had chosen radio.

Have you noticed how children behave when a camera is pointed at them? All the spontaneity and charm vanishes in a second. Try getting the attention of an attractive young woman or man when they pass a mirror or their shop-window reflection. It is equally corrupting to put a seasoned journalist on television.

A television crew member once told me that presenters leave the studio as sexually frisky as footballers. The camera acts as an aphrodisiac. Doesn't that sound faintly unhinged? Imagine all those TV narcissists jiggling about like atoms in the green room.

What sort of orgy followed the marathon television election night coverage?

It is impossible to imagine whipping off your clothes at the end of the World at One. Everything about radio is so sane and intelligent and orderly. All the preening and fuss of television is absent. This means you can get so much more done.

I was on a schools career panel not long ago with a recognisable television journalist and a young researcher from the BBC World Service. The questions were mostly directed at the television man, but he modestly deflected them. He said that once he had settled into a television studio, he had stopped being a journalist and entered a form of entertainment. If you want to find out about the world, for God's sake go into radio. You can travel light and people respond to a radio microphone in a far more intimate and easy manner than to a television camera.

The radio is far less intrusive than television. It allows you to continue your daily tasks, rather than stopping you in your tracks. It is companionable and life-enhancing rather than confrontational. I eat supper to Front Row and wake up to Farming Today.

Television is like too much chocolate tart, and you can tire of it. I have never ever felt sated by Eddie Mair or Martha Kearney or Paddy O'Connell. Because it is a less diva-ish medium than television, it is quicker witted, better mannered and less bureaucratic. New programmes are unleashed without fear or focus groups. Favourites are quickly established. I am a recent convert to Radio 3's Night Waves, presented by, among others, Anne McElvoy.

I know that I have a partial view of radio, which is limited to Radios 3 and 4 and the World Service. But my teenage daughter has developed the same deep loyalty to Radio 1's Chris Moyles. I realised she had been perpetrating voter fraud, making multiple applications for tickets, only when I received an unexpected email: "To Sarah Sands: We are very sorry to say that unfortunately you have not been allocated tickets for BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend this year."

I believe that character is more likely to be found in the voice than in the face and that it is much harder to deceive on radio. If we had all listened to the political debates on radio, rather than been dazzled by, for the most part, watching them on television, we might have been more clear-minded about who we really wanted to run the country.