BBC 7: A good reason for DAB 

30 June 2005 tbs.pm/383

It’s interesting that my colleague mentions the competition between OneWord and BBC (Radio) 7. I’ve discovered that when I listen to the radio, I’m listening more and more to BBC 7 (well, in fact I quite often listen to it from the Internet via Listen Again and my music server, thanks to ‘AlienBBC‘, but that’s another matter).

It started when I discovered that they were playing all these old shows: some, like Round The Horne, Beyond Our Ken and The Navy Lark I had heard quite a few of when they went out, but others, like Paul Temple and Journey Into Space I almost completely missed the first time round, either because I was too young, or I just… er… missed them.

These days I religiously tune in every weekend to listen to the adventures of Captain Jet Morgan and crew in Charles Chilton’s classic space serial, just as I would have done between 1953 and 1958 had I been a touch older. And while there’s part of me conscious of the archive/nostalgia element and the fairly basic approach to radio drama, most of me is completely absorbed in the plot as the theatre of the imagination works its magic.

And then I discovered Garrison Keillor’s Radio Show (Saturdays, noon to 1pm, repeated 11pm and the following day at 6am). It’s basically a shortened (sadly, and by 50%) version of one of the leading shows on National Public Radio in the States, Prairie Home Companion, and one that, when I lived there, especially in Nashville, I used to make a point of listening to of a Saturday evening.

It’s a quite curious programme, generally live from some mid-West city (though these days often further afield; and the BBC runs it about 3 weeks behind in any event), with a wide variety of broadly folky music, sketches, Keillor’s famous News from Lake Wobegone monologues (which I presume are well-known in the UK: or is he better-known simply for voicing Honda commercials?) and spoof ads (plus the odd real one, which must only be OK for the BBC because the sponsors ? or at least one of them, Land’s End – don’t sell here except via the Net). Hard to describe, really, so just have a listen one weekend or on the Net and see what you think.

I’ve heard BBC 7 referred to as a complete waste of money: for me, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not far off being my favourite station – especially as while I might have music radio on in the background, I listen to BBC 7. The fact that OneWord is finding it impossible to beat suggests that I’m not alone (the latter certainly carries some good material but I find it quite often rather boring).

Now, arguably, BBC 7 is an example of the BBC already giving its archives away for free – on the digital air and via the Net. What does APIG make of that?

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