Philobiblon: The good and the bad of Radio 4 and new media

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The good and the bad of Radio 4 and new media

I'm accused in the discussion of the new media age below of being insufficiently appreciative of the BBC, which I'll refute by commenting on the delightful Radio 4 show that I'm (half) listening to now, about the history of negative numbers, going back to the Chinese, which you will (for about the next week) be able to download as an MP3.

But it isn't perfect - I awoke to the Today programme getting terribly excited about print-on-demand publishing (in the form of an interview with the Lulu owner, as though this was something new and revolutionary. Hello? Where have they been for the last three or more years?

Nonetheless, while I agree the democratic age of media will produce horrors to the equal of those suggested by my commenter clanger - things like those terrible collections of videos of toddlers falling over obstacles that you have to suspect parents have placed in their path for the purpose - there is also nothing to stop a small group of academics getting together and producing a podcast similar to those of In Our Time on negative numbers. Or indeed many academics doing likewise in their specialist subjects. All you'd need is a Skype connection (free) and a bit of very basic technical knowledge.

There could be hundreds, thousands of In Our Times every week, not just one.


Blogger clanger said...

The point being that the BBC was given and available at the touch of a button. Millions of people don't even know what a podcast is, much less how to access one.

Here we have a perfect example of the digital divide. On one side, access to technology is considered to be typical (why don't people just XYZ of their own initiative). On the other, many folk don't even know what the technologies are, let alone how to access them.

Skype is not free: You need to buy the hardware. But most of all, you need to understand what it is.

Print on demand is 'new' for anyone who has never heard of it, and so it will be explained in an introductory manner for a general audience by the BBC, and as 'novel' by the Lulu folk for commercial reasons.

'You've been Framed' is on ITV, not the BBC, and is the sort of stuff we would get wall-to-wall if there was no BBC.

'A small group of academics': Hmm, sounds a bit patrician to me.

Of course a podcast would only be accessed by those who went to look for it, everyone else would remain in ignorance, as would you Natalie, if the BBC had not broadcast it, as I doubt you would have suddenly thought 'I know, I'll look for a podcast on negative numbers'.

The BBC has always operated on many levels, one being the concept of 'adult education', or is the concept of a public education system too patrician for you too? A small clique choosing the subjects.

Here's an analogy to the BBC's operation: school dinners. Let them choose what they want (95% burgers and chips) or give them a chance to eat well (fresh vegetables, and low sugar, fat, and salt).

The BBC, whatever flaws it may have had, has always striven to expand the horizons of an entire nation. If you prefer a more democratic society, try America.

Millions of clinically obese people watching a thousand crap TV channels and voting for people like Bush. Because its their right to, and no patrician minority is ever going to change them. You might find some decent popular entertainment over there...on PBS.

3/09/2006 11:22:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

But the answer is to bridge the digital divide ... I don't accept that the choice - now - is between America and Britain, although of course given that I'd choose the BBC every time. Suspect we'll have to disagree on this one ...

3/09/2006 12:15:00 pm  
Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

If you're enjoying In Our Time (I subscribe to the podcasts, so I have a backlog of them ready for listening when I'm in the mood, and the husband listens to them too), you might also like some other podcasts I've found: Sparkletack is about San Francisco history, which might sound very place-specific, but it's well done and covers a lot of variety; Stanford University has hundreds of campus lectures and such available as podcasts (go to ). There's a strong problem with pod-fade among podcasts of academic interest--folks run out of material or interest or time--but Sparkletack has been a pretty consistent labor of love, and Stanford won't run out of material anytime soon.

3/09/2006 04:39:00 pm  

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