Hats off to Near FM for their tilt at the EU monster
In a column like this, you tend to fixate on the big stations – understandably, I suppose, as those are nationwide, have the broadest reach and the deepest impact on the radio landscape. Still, it's nice to focus on smaller stations from time to time, so hats off this week to Near FM.
A community station based in North Dublin, it makes a very refreshing change from the usual local radio, which is mostly computer-programmed pop music with little content that's tailored to the area, or indeed, of much interest. Near FM, while it has music, also runs a wide range of talk radio. I was especially taken with Europe on Air (Thursday, 4.30pm), a weekly programme which examines the impact of EU policies and decisions on our daily lives.
It sounds boring, I know. But bear with me. Europe on Air manages the remarkable trick of rendering this monolithic, impenetrable, faceless entity – the bureaucratic monster all other bureaucratic monsters call Supreme Master – into something that seems relevant to each of us.
Even something, dare I say it, interesting. And that's not a word I ever thought I'd be using to describe the EU.
Moving from the local to the cosmic, a great new science show, What's It All About? (Radio 1, Sunday, 7pm), has come to the end of its run. It will be missed, although hopefully this was but the first of many series.
It's the brainchild of science journalist and author Sean Duke and producer Colette Kinsella. The title gives a pretty good clue as to where this show has trained its sights: nothing less than the big questions of existence.
Could we really live forever – and would we want to? What exactly is the human brain? What is consciousness? Is there life after death? Are we alone in the universe, or is ET out there watching us from the coldness of space? And most intriguingly (for me, anyway): how do you know if you're a psychopath?
What's it all about, indeed. Irish radio is on a fantastic run of science programming at the moment – across RTÉ, Newstalk and Today FM – after a barren age without much at all. Long may it continue.