I’m coming to the end of a three year stint of 120 mile daily commutes.
Three to four hours in the car, each day, has made me something of a breakfast and drive-time radio dependent. Although I have great respect for the role that Radio 4‘s Today plays in UK society, I quickly grow bored of its almost exclusive devotion to events in Westminster and Washington.
Radio 5 is a good alternative, with Nicky Campbell’s insistent reminders to guests that there is a world outside London. However, Radio 5 is obsessed with sport and sport is neither news nor interesting.
A couple of years back, I discovered that Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTE, uses 252 long wave for RTE 1. Morning Ireland is great; I’m not sure if it’s thanks to the slight exoticism of stories of traffic jams in places I’ve barely heard of, or that the Irish government seems far more interested in domestic affairs and so RTE has something to report other than the Middle East.
Also on AM is Virgin Radio, the station that has always thought of itself as having the stature of a national broadcaster but, despite having a national licence, has never broken free of local radio cheese. When Christian O’Connell and his team joined earlier this year, Virgin’s breakfast show became worth listening to. However, the frequency with which Virgin repeats the same dreary songs means I’m soon reaching for the scan button.
That was when I found a Slavic-sounding chap reading business news stories, on 1323 MHz. Each news story was structured a little like a joke: the newsreader set the scene (this or that Russian company had done something or other), then told us that someone had said something negative about the activity, and then at the very end we found out that someone else had said it was all okay. There were no interviews, no audio clips and each story was topped and tailed with ten seconds of what sounded like Emmerson, Lake and Palmer.
Turns out it was the Voice of Russia World Service. I found that out when the business news finished and a bloke with an odd of mix of Russian and “cool cat” accent introduced a jazz show.
On the way home, I tried to find it again but it was in German. The next day the signal too weak to listen to. Still, it was great to hear some people sitting in Moscow as I trundled through the Gloucestershire countryside.