A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Why are BBC Radio 2 presenters more balanced on the environment than their Radio 4 counterparts?.....

I am currently so fed up of the crass agenda-setting on Radio 4's(*) flagship Today programme (06.00 - 09.00, weekdays; 07.00 - 09.00 Saturdays) that I have turned at breakfast to Radio 3's Morning on 3 (07.00 - 10.00, every day) instead for a more enriching diet of Bach, Beethoven, and Bartok. If I listen to Today, I find the bright new morning turns choleric far too early; by contrast, Brendel playing Schubert is solace for the weary soul, and I leave with some brio in my step.

But, the true comparison must be with Radio 2. Despite being a long-time Radio 4 devotee, where the environment is concerned, I am being increasingly converted to Radio 2, and especially to Terry on Wake up to Wogan (07.30 - 09.30, weekdays) and to Jeremy on the Jeremy Vine Show (12.00 - 14.00, weekdays). The tone of these programmes is genial, rather than arrogantly hectoring, but, more importantly, they remain sceptical of the metropolitan elite view of the world which so bedevils much of the pompous Today output.

I have been lucky enough to appear a number of times on Vine, and I find there an open, inquisitive attitude so often lacking on Today. Vine is also very fair, both with pundits and with listener comments, and it is quite brilliant in letting folk express their own views and then hang themselves, rather than twisting the discussion to a pre-conceived agenda - witness Jeremy's most amusing interviews on Friday with various Lib Dem luminaries on the confusion between their national and local policies re wind farms. From 'Ming' downwards, they were allowed to waffle on and demonstrate that they hadn't a fog. Yet, all remained pleasant and fun.

There is further a welcome tone of honest scepticism in these programmes, a tone perfectly encapsulated by the irreplaceable Terry Wogan ("For it is he!") in his Sunday Telegraph column, 'Wogan's World', of today:
"Returning from a two-week break, I find people even more confused than I left them: What is it to be, Wellingtons and sou'westers, or sandals and shorts? On Radio Two's Jeremy Vine Show, an expert warned that the Thames was in danger of drying up in the next few years because of global warming.

'Fairenoughski,' as the Queen Mother used to say. Except that the previous week another expert had warned that in a few years the Thames will overflow, flooding most of London, due to global warming. Confusion reigns.

A listener wonders if he should no longer bother with the carrots and spuds on his allotment this year and go instead for grapes and figs. There again, with another freezing front flying in the face of global warmth, would he be better off breeding huskies and greasing his sledge?

As ever, the entrepreneurial flame brightly glows. Another correspondent is putting all his money into staking out watercress beds in Greenland before anyone else catches on."

This says it all, and with consummate light humour. I also know that Wogan and Vine speak much more for the average soul in Britain. As I go around the country lecturing, I am increasingly struck by the pervading sensible scepticism over 'global warming', a scepticism that is never truly reflected on Today, which is too often (surprisingly) uncritical, ponderous, pretentious, and partial in the people to whom it gives an easy ride.

If you don't already listen, give Terry and Jeremy a go - you'll have a spring in your step if you do. And, then, there is always Vivaldi and the arcane Vindalooski ("Who he?" Ed.) on Radio 3 ("Not listened to his Curry Quartet in B flat (Khorma 346) then?").....

Philip, lunch on this rather bright, cold day. (*)But, first, here is a potted note on BBC Radio output for 'EnviroSpin' readers from across the pond and elsewhere: Radio 4 is our all-talk, middle-class radio (ever-so PC); Radio 3 is classical music and experimental drama (just a tad twee and self-satisfied); Radio 2 is a melange of news, critical chat, and popular music (big audiences); and, Radio 1 - I don't go there - I would raise the average listening age by more than I would care to admit! Lastly, there is Radio 5 Live, aka 'Radio Bloke', i.e. sport and chat with a macho angle. The news coverage is, nevertheless, first class, and many think it is better than on Radio 4. So there you have it. And they are all online too. Enjoy.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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