Sometimes, it’s easy to see how Radio Lab has positively influenced BBC Radio 4. Take for example, the two part series presented by Dr Ben Goldacre, on the placebo effect, and Radio Lab’s own.
Sometimes though, it would be really nice to see even a hint of Radio Lab’s influence. Take this Analysis on Thought Experiments, which shares some content with Radio Lab’s Morality show.
You know, the Analysis may have as much, or even more information. But how much of it sticks? Only the baking topic, which was mentioned three times throughout the programme.
Now, have a peep at the comments on Radio Lab episodes, and you’ll see why Radio 4 feels it can’t engage more than on part of the brain at once. I can’t be arsed looking up any of the examples of people complaining at how the non-speech sounds distracted them and made them angry – there are some there. Now imagine how much more of that crap BBC Radio 4 gets. Too many older listeners, it is my opinion (and attitude), don’t want radio to challenge them, they want it to reinforce they choices they’ve made in life so far. So, they chose to go through education and to save for their offspring to go to university and to look down on those who didn’t and so… they like to learn new things. But only on their terms. Engagement, the fearful old people believe, should only happen though the writing. They don’t feel free to let themselves go, to let the sound hit them in linguistic spots, musical spots, intellectual and instinctive spots.
And they are the people who own Radio 4. So that is that.
A few years back I had a discussion with creative producer (and Beeb employee) Martin Williams about how Radio 4 seems to lose the run of itself and carry lovely shows from Alan Hall’s Falling Tree Productions that go sound and language hand-in-hand, often with sound taking the lead. Martin reckoned (as I remember it) that the Radio 4 commissioners and editors deep down wanted sound-rich pieces, yet didn’t quite know it, and Alan Hall created that a space, showed it to them, and they agreed to let him fill it. My view was more that they knew him well, trusted him, and liked the awards that came with it, so left him to fill in day-time half hours.
And, um, now I’ve run out of steam. Let me give it some more thought.