Kate Chisholm

Top of the pods

BBC Radio 4’s properly creepy adaptation of the Midwich Cuckoos at New Year shows how far ahead radio is at drama

It’s racing up the UK podcast charts, overtaking (as I write) the established favourites such as No Such Thing as a Fish, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review and This American Life, and only just behind the reigning number one, My Dad Wrote a Porno (don’t ask; it’s meant to be funny). Briefly, at the height of Brexit fever last month as phase one came to an end and Theresa May rushed to Brussels for a meeting with President Juncker and co., Brexitcast topped the list, scoring the highest number of downloads. It could well make it to the top again.

I had a listen, out of curiosity, not expecting to last the full half-hour. How could yet more talk about the single market and the Norwegian model attract so many listeners? Surely we’ve all heard quite enough about the interminable wrangling that’s going on to settle the terms of this very messy divorce, dissecting each new twist or turn of the complex negotiations, minute-by-minute, word-for-word, glance-by-glance? But the BBC reporting team behind it — Laura Kuenssberg, Chris Mason, Katya Adler and Adam Fleming — have cracked the format. They totally understand that podcasts are different from mainstream audio and relish that difference.

You can tell they’re enjoying this opportunity to take off the BBC straitjacket, let their hair down, be a bit facetious. But they’re also highly experienced professionals and know that informality can be a trap and that it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will encourage the listener to feel more connected. Quite the reverse. To draw us in and keep our attention amid their sometimes chaotic chit-chat, they need to stay focused on what they want to share with us. Always, after a little light banter, one or other of them will take the lead and put the conversation back on course.

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