Thursday 21 November 2019

Radio: Out with the old old, in with the new old...

LUNCH DATE: For comedian Oliver Callan
LUNCH DATE: For comedian Oliver Callan

Eilis O'Hanlon

At this time, it's traditional to the point of tedium to look back and bemoan the overindulgence of Christmas and New Year.

The Food Chain on BBC World Service didn't entirely avoid that cliche. Obesity expert Professor Steve Bloom described, in uncomfortable detail, what happens to the human body when it consumes thousands more calories than it needs. Blood that "looks like milk" because there's so much fat in it, for starters. He also admitted, however, that humans have a "design feature to overeat when food is available", and the show itself went into some detail to show how feasting in the bleak midwinter, while not universal, is a "remarkably common" feature of most cultures, and helps foster a sense of community and well-being.

Radio Four's The Long View offered a similar sense of perspective in a programme on Tuesday comparing the current obsession with obesity to similar scares in the 1930s, when books with titles such as Surplus Fat And How To Reduce It lined the shelves of well-meaning fingerwaggers.

There were even quotes from the UK's Chief Medical Officer in 1930 lamenting the prevalent "apathy and ignorance in the choice of foods, often associated with deplorable ineptitude in cookery". Nowadays the more politically correct trend is to blame society rather than individuals for their waistlines, but the show did raise the question whether today's concern is simply another moral panic.

Terror And The Oxygen Of Publicity, which went out on the same station last Sunday, examined how radical groups are using social media to spread their message and how technology companies are "in denial" about how they have become "command and control networks" for terrorists. The leader of al-Qa'ida has said of Islamic terrorism that "more than half that war is fought in the media", and the evidence from this programme from BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera is that they're winning.

In this battle, it is the US State Department which is the small "guerilla" outfit, as one spokesman put it, striving in vain to counter the tide of online propaganda. The need of terrorists to keep escalating the violence to maintain the same shock value was a worrying hint of things to come.

Irish radio passed the time with lots of reviews of the past year, repeats, and pre-recorded time fillers masquerading as new material. On Wednesday's Morning Ireland, there was also the obligatory debate on what 2015 would hold.

Difficult economic conditions. Political rancour. More bloodshed. Not so much "out with the old and in with the new" as "out with the old, in with the same old, same old."

Though it's doubtful anything to come will be half as unsettling as Alan Shatter, as featured on Callan's Kicks' round up of the last 12 months, singing his own version of Music Of The Night from Phantom Of The Opera. Seriously, RTE, a warning that "this show contains scenes that some listeners may find disturbing" next time, please.

Sunday Independent

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