I really love radio and I listen to it all over the place; I wake up to it in the morning, I listen in the car, in the kitchen while I’m cooking, whilst soaking in the bath, on my PC and, when I have no access to a radio, I listen to my favourite programmes downloaded to my iPod.
I wake up to the Today programme on Radio 4 and then either continue with it in the car or occasionally switch to Radio 1 if Chris Moyles isn’t being too silly (cos I is dahn wiv da kidz), or Radio 3 if I think the boys needing calming. Harborough FM is a local and extremely useful delight which I use to check traffic and local news and often drive home to. At lunchtime I like to hear the ‘phone- ins on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show, then back to Radio 4 for The Archers and the Afternoon Play. It goes on again in the kitchen while I’m cooking and we often listen to the Archers whilst eating dinner. Radio 4 then goes back on again at bedtime and, if I’ve failed to have an early night, one of my deep joys is to lie in the dark listening to Sailing By and The Shipping Forecast, trying to imagine storm-tossed seas in Lundy, Fastnet or Forth/Tyne/Dogger.
My iPod is the grateful recipient of the Friday Night Comedy, Thinking Allowed and In Our Time. I am often engaged in repetitive, manual work and Melvyn Bragg’s unashamedly intellectual In Our Time opens windows into subjects that I would simply never have time to learn about. This is the importance of radio – there is virtually no situation, particularly with the advances in broadcasting, in which you cannot have access to music, news, current affairs, philosophy, comedy, gardening, poetry and the rest.
I have learned about Hildegaard of Bingen and the Philosophy of Mathematics whilst cleaning lavatories. T.S. Eliot, the Magna Carta and the Problem of Measurement in Physics whilst ironing shirts. I feel cleverer for having heard it. I love hearing all sides of an argument that I didn’t even know was raging on Thinking Allowed. I listen to the comedy shows again and again to cheer myself up as I scrub out an oven. This could not happen with television, because it is designed to be watched, it precludes other activites.
This week I heard a debate about the proposed switch-off of the analogue signal in 2015 in favour of digital broadcasting. At the moment, I don’t possess any DAB radios and at least half of my radios are rather crackly and ready to be replaced. But I can’t afford one digital radio, let alone several, they are expensive items. One problem with this switchover is that not enough of the population are buying digital radios and until such time as the majority of people own them, the decision would be completely undemocratic and would have an incredibly detrimental effect on broadcasting. Additionally, the digital signal is pretty ropey in many areas of the country; certainly in Leicestershire it is erratic to say the least. Nevertheless, it is planned to sell off the analogue frequencies to mobile ‘phone and broadband companies.
There are millions of analogue radios in this country which would be condemned to landfill, should the switchover take place so soon. Currently, the technology for digital radios means that they use vastly more electricity to use which will have a knock-on effect on battery usage and the amount of power needed to re-charge portable storage devices such as MP3s. I’m sure that eventually the technology will catch up, but not by 2015. These considerations are quite significant at a time when the environmentalists are howling night and day about cutting nightly emissions and re-cycling our toe-nails. How many unsightly and inadequate wind farms will be forced on us to power that lot?
I like digital radio and I wish I had one; I like the additional information displayed about programmes and I like features such as being able to pause a live programme, but I still can’t afford one. The price of DAB radios has to come down and the technology to make them energy efficient needs to catch up. I reckon twenty years should cover it.