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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

"You can have any record you like as long as it's on this list"

Radio Two asked its listeners to choose which of its 100 most-played albums it liked best. This is a curious form of polling. It's like asking Dagenham and Redbridge supporters to name their favourite Chelsea player.

It's the only way radio can work. Radio can't actually respond to people's requests because that might mean going off-message and then where would they be?

They used to run a Sunday night request show on Capital. Listeners would call in and banter with Dr Fox, he'd say "what do you want to hear?", they'd name a record and he'd have it lined up to play straight away.

That's slick, I thought. It's also, coincidentally, on the playlist.

It was then explained to me that although that show was being broadcast live, everything you were hearing had been recorded a few minutes earlier. This gave them the space to tell the caller which of three records they could choose, stage the fake conversation and then tidy up any loose ends in time for broadcast a few minutes later. At which point they would be doing the same with somebody else.

The radio man looked at me as if to say "what did you think happened, you poor child?"