As luck would have it, here I am reading a column that you were going to have to read yourself about the joy of radio – it was going to appear in a magazine you might have heard of – called Monocle and now here you are listening to it – on a radio station that you’ve clearly heard of because you’re hearing this – also called Monocle. Serendipity is a wonderful thing.
Radio, eh? In this messed-up media landscape where certain oak-strong old certainties now resemble Dutch elms and question marks, at least someone’s putting their money and their microphone where their mouth is – so welcome to Monocle 24 – launched because radio’s where it’s at. It never went away. It was always there being bloody good and very popular and playing you the best new songs and telling you the news and making you smile on a Saturday morning before you went to the shops, or gee-ing you up on a Friday night while you got changed to go out or – as Monocle 24 aims to do – keep you abreast of what’s going on in the world while getting your foot a-tapping and making you do that wonderful thing – of running to find the back of an envelope to scribble down the name of a song or the title of a book or just remembering something said and telling it to someone else. Radio’s infectious.
Radio is at once intimate and universal. Capable of keeping you company like a proper pal, and able to impart the gravest of news with a little respect rather than the hubris of its flash git brother, TV. And it’s also brilliant at being the most populist bridge builder since Isambard Kingdom Brunel: I remember sitting at traffic lights as one of my British radio heroes, Chris Evans, cracked a joke on his breakfast show a decade ago or so – I turned left and right to see a plasterer in his pick-up truck cracking up and a suit in a Jag grinning at the same moment at the same joke, right there, live – and it was moving. It was like an advert for something, but it rang true.
The thing is this: radio does what we do, it sounds like we sound. It makes mistakes that prompt the ‘where-were-you-when-it-happened?’ collective memory. Mine is the late cricket commentator Brian Johnson giggling like a schoolgirl, while trying to explain how England batsman Ian Botham “didn’t quite get his leg over”. Yours might be the estimable BBC news presenter James Naughtie spoonerising Jeremy Hunt the culture secretary. But radio’s better at being really well behaved.
It doesn’t need to be lit, over-orchestrated or faked. Radio requires a bit of description, it’s got an artistic bent – radio’s beauty is that it’s a bit abstract – it’s painting pictures, while TV’s just taking photos. Radio is also the secret to younger-looking skin because no-one can see you.
You had your time, you had the power. You’ve yet to have your finest hour. Thanks for tuning in.