Listener views: keep them out of radio programmes

I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned with Radio 3’s efforts to involve members of its listenership in its programmes. Tuning in has become something of a trial, whereby you risk running the gauntlet of listeners’ e-mails interrupting the programmed pieces of music. Now we’re bombarded by broadcasters reading out e-mails from listeners, offering their views on the greatest moment in classical music, their experience of an opera, or why they have fond memories of particular works.

This is of no interest to me whatsoever. Neither is my interest in classical music  going to be heightened by the supposed excitement of a Classical Chart Countdown, or competing with other listeners over ‘What is your favourite String Trio of All Time ?’



I’m not interested either in someone else’s fondness for individual pieces of music; what is it to me that Brian Bootlace of Snivelston loves Gounod’s Ave Maria because it reminds him of taking tea and biscuits on a walking holiday in Weston-Super-Mare ? The individual reaction to a piece of music is intensely private, a distillation of memory, personal experience and musical perception. it won’t be helped by hearing another’s reasons for liking it; in fact, the reactions of others can often be intrusive and interfere with your own hearing.

The author Jilly Cooper speaks in a recent article about keeping the listeners away. I agree. (I never thought I’d be agreeing with Jilly Cooper). A platform like Twitter offers the opportunity for dialogue with consumers, with audiences and listeners; it gives the illusion of personal dialogue, albeit one conducted over the internet where anyone following your ‘tweets’ can follow the conversation. It’s something that Twitter does well, but it has no place scheduled into radio programmes generally. Listeners have every right to correspond with broadcasters, to e-mail their views in to breakfast programmes, but I don’t tune in to the radio to hear them. I want to hear the music, not what someone else thinks about them. For that, I’ll go to the discussion boards or Twitter.

Any minute now, someone will rap on the screen and start muttering about ‘ownership’ and ‘participation.’ Arts organisations, particularly in the current budget-tightening era, need to reach out to their consumers, to involve them more and make them feel a part of their cultural provision – mainly in order to keep them coming to events and buying the tickets. But bringing this directly into on-air consumption by other listeners interferes with the music – the reason people tune in to begin with.

Keep listeners’ views out of the programmes, and let us enjoy the music for ourselves.


2 Responses

  1. Part of a wider debate about the dumbing-down of culture on the BBC, it seems: although none of the R3 presenters talk about their kids – at the moment…!

  2. I thought Radio 2 was bad enough with Zoe Ball asking listeners for e-mails in between talking about her kids!

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