I have a confession to make. I don’t listen to anywhere near as much Radio 4 as I ought to.
You’d think I’d listen to more. It’s only by listening you can get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. And if you’re going to specialise in it, you’re going to need to know that kind of thing. Not least because you’ll know what’s been done before. There’s nothing quite so embarrassing as pitching an idea that’s already been produced.
Contrary to the perception of how radio makes few demands on the listener (“I listen to it when I’m doing the ironing”), I need a distraction free environment to fully appreciate speech radio. The office environment can be hideously distracting a lot of the time.
That’s why it was my Significant Other who plucked this gem from yesterday’s PM on BBC Radio 4.
There are a number of elements which contribute to making this a cracking 10 minutes of radio.
The opening 60 second mashup of clips from contributors throughout the week grabs my attention right at the start. The mashup seduces the listener, toying with his/her perceptions by suggesting that news people can be a bit anarchic in their view on the world.
The remaining 9 minutes are simple in origin. Eddie Mair links a series of voiced contributions sent in from members of the public. Simple is good. We like simple.
The order of contributions is vital to the success of the piece. A balance of views (from cantankerous negativity to positive affirmation) is a given, naturally. But it is the range which makes the piece engaging. The listener is taken from witty and poignant (“..a symphony between the gale force wind outside and the computer fan inside”), to witty (“all I heard was my wife practising her violin – never do this again”) and thoughtful (“it felt as though all us listeners were folding in on ourselves”).
While Mair’s links and asides keep the pace, it is – fundamentally – the writing in these contributions, ruthlessly edited down which keeps attention focussed throughout. What is in effect an extremely long segment, it’s ultimate success is proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the “three minute attention span rule” trotted out by ill-informed production “experts” is nonsense. If it’s engaging, people will listen.
:: Listen to the full edition of PM from Friday 12 November 2010 via BBC Programmes.
:: The picture used in this blog post was published on Flickr by Guido AJ Stevens and is used here under licence.