James Delingpole James Delingpole

Sound and fury | 2 June 2016

Is there, for example, anyone on radio more irritating than Eddie Mair? Yes, her name is Anita Anand

There are few jobs more dishonest than being a radio critic in Britain. I know this because it was how I got my first break 25 years ago as a columnist. In those days you used to get sent huge yellow envelopes full of preview cassettes, whereas now it’s all digital, but the fundamental lie is just the same: essentially you are telling the reader something they know not to be true — that BBC Radio 4 is a wonderfully civilised place to hang out, brimming with all sorts of marvellously fascinating programmes that transport you to another realm.

Yes, of course it does happen. In the same way that when Grozny was reduced to rubble in the Chechen wars, I expect there was some beautiful old building left standing, a mosque maybe, which you could have gone to visit. But if you’d then come back home and told your friends, ‘God, you really must go to Grozny. The architecture there is totally amazing,’ you wouldn’t have been telling the full story, would you?

So it is with Radio 4. (Which, as far as reviewing goes, is radio.) There are times — we’ve all been there — when you’re desperately trying to stay awake on a late-night drive or you’re slogging along a tedious stretch of motorway or you’re stuck in a jam, and to your rescue comes a documentary or even, on rarer occasions, a play so absorbing that time ceases to exist and you could happily stay there for ever.

Be honest, though: it’s not that often, is it? Definitely, I spend far more time shouting at my radio than I do blissing out to it. This is partly a function of the fact that the bulk of Radio 4’s daily schedule comprises so many programmes you can barely bear: Today — just maddening; Woman’s Hour — hateful, sanctimonious, man-hating wittering; You and Yours — bleeuurch; Costing the Earth — like being force-fed to death on sackcloth and tofu; PM — is there anyone on radio more irritating than Eddie Mair?; Any Answers — yes, there is and her name is Anita Anand.

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