Channel hopping, on one leg…

You could hear Charlie Brooker and Konnie Huq snapping their pencils in exhausted anger in response to BAFTA creating “Reality and Constructed Factual” as an award category some years ago. Oh well, one half of the still slightly unfathomable couple must have said to the other, there goes sharp satire towards THAT part of broadcasting, have we done sports television yet?

Perhaps ever-so-but-not-quite less now than in recent years, television is all about the specific ‘concept’ show, one specific strand left tied between two posts only just close enough together to avoid snapping, but far enough apart to allow it to disappear if viewed from a certain angle. BBC Two bloody loves a ‘concept show’; n just one genre they’ve enjoyed asking professional chefs to cook for the Queen, not-so-professional chefs to cook for each other, and complete amateurs to cook for Andi Peters and Christine Hamilton. From these ‘concepts’ ripple out variants which don’t quite work but fit the bill, sort of tribute band versions, such as ITV’s doomed attempt at making ‘Great British Menu’. (“ITV’s doomed attempt to…” could become a meme, actually, if it isn’t already.)

BBC Two has also given us an 114-year old women (give or take) sewing LIVE and current cult fave ‘Great British Bake Off’, which promises and almost always delivers UNCENSORED FLOUR SIFTING at before 9pm. Scandalous.

From the ripples out to the farthest reaches of television, the ‘concept’ show continues almost but not quite unwatched. SKY One, bless it, bought the rights to “Project Catwalk”, where a dozen gay men and two kooky women bitchersize to-and-fro in between occasional shots of LIVE SEWING. Channel 4, for reasons nobody can fathom, continue providing airtime to Middle Class Big Brother ‘Come Dine With Me’, and both Five has a strange delight with domestic and bought-in ‘concept’ programmes showing people learning to take a holiday with strangers and F-list celebs and that sort of thing. It’s a wonder, as many sane individuals ask every now and then, that they’ve not run out of shows to broadcast.

Well I think there’s a good number of programme ideas left for “Production Concept Architects”, or whatever BBC Media City types are called this week, to put inside their thought-pods. I have not been influenced by ‘Sex Box’, the Channel 4 red-triangle nostalgia fest in which two couples are interviewed having just shagged in an opaque box. (I seem to remember Vice magazine doing something similar if not identical, more than once, as nothing is new under the sun.). Laudable, Channel 4? I understand the principle behind the programme – for many viewers of sex on-line via small boxes with the volume down the only questions asked after a fuck usually consists of ‘Oh yea, you like that don’t you?’ Not entirely convinced, though, that putting documentary clothes around “The Sex Inspectors” makes ‘Sex Box’ automatically valid or credible.

Anyhoo ‘Sex Box’ has not got me thinking, as I said, about a 6-part Channel 5 ‘concept’ show where three couples are taught a different sex position every week for the chance to appear on Television X [proprietor: Mr R Desmond]. No, instead, I think BBC Two has just the right gap in its schedules to do away with cookery, learning to conduct an orchestra and giving floppy-haired nature presenters the opportunity to drop Manic Street Preachers lyrics into stock footage of an owl being torn to shreds, for the broadcast of “Writers Block”, a 28-or-so episode reality-and-constructed-factual winter warmer in which budding writers, poets and EMO-RUBY (or someone like her) must go from scrawling “No Milk Today” outside the house every morning to a novella just in time for a Christmas Day dramatisation after Brenda’s speech. Tie-in NaNoWriMo and you’ve got the BBC roping in the “Twilight” fandom who spend 20 days writing “If Only I Was……whatever the girl is called in it for the purposes of this bit Brenda?” before calling it a day because NOBODY IS GOING TO TURN ME INTO EMO RUBY or whatever.

“Writers Block” goes straight to the heart of the BBC’s argument that Auntie is all about brains and not beauty, intelligence over people having sex in a box or being shouted at by Davina. Learn to write poetry having been forced into screaming choice words at “Eggheads” – surely it’s a winning production on that alone? It’s very Radio 4, yes, but if you can tolerate “Quote Unquote” and “Poetry Please” then you can put up with 5×26 minutes every week of a pop-up restaurant owner from Hoxton speak-singing in front of John Barrowman and Sophie Ellis-Bexter, surely?

Television relies on making new things out of very old ideas; there’s nothing in “Strictly” that looks particularly different from 1970s and 1980s variety shows, for example. The ‘concept’ show has provided modern viewers with some must-see classics, only these can disappear as fast as they come. What nobody wants is constant reliance on the tired format – see “The X Factor” struggle, see “Come Dine With Me” turn into in-joke hell. If there’s something remotely different to experiment with, I say go the heck with it. Tune in to watch “Writers Block” on BBC Two, it’s the BBC Four show you always wanted in a format you’d be too British about to complain over. Sounds…..whatever the word is….I’ll do better next week, honest, don’t evict me….

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wheels fall off

I’m not the kind of northerner who breaks out in Peter Kay sketches when conversation dries up at parties.

“So….erm…well, I see you’ve got a pretty hefty hatchback out front. That for the big shop, eh? BIG SHOP!! Isn’t Bombay Mix fancy?  They don’t do gravy down south you know!!”

I do look pastwards so often there’s a crick in my neck and most of the contemporary points of reference  can be traced back to the current comedy listings of Radio 4 Extra. I deny any childhood memory of watching All Clued Up whilst eating artic roll.

(Which I absolutely did. With my gran. In a house with a chain for the Warden)

As such I’m always happy to remember all those things which the past gave me – the Grandstand theme tune, what SOHCAHTOA stands for and the inability to shake off the anger at having a winning McDonalds/Trivial Pursuit scratchcard posted into an empty shop by bigger, harder, punchier lads…Er..yes, well as such I’m always happy but the problem with looking back is discovering how things never quite look as good as a cynical old grump.

When ITV recently repeated dozens of 80s and 90s cult children’s television faves some looked far fresher than most. It’s not abnormal, it’s to be expected. Cream always rises, be that music, films or even cheesy TV “guilty secrets”.

Of course some of those faded classics have done so because it’s deserved. Not to break out into end of the pier comedian again but, Wagon Wheels, eh? Weren’t they just awful? All mushy, two-tone slabs of processed mush, not quite biscuit, not quite pumice stone. Disco crisps, too, while I’m here. Oh come on, Disco crisps could hardly pass digestion – it was like swallowing a 50p coin drenched in caster sugar.

This is not hindsight; this is growing up. This is accepting that there are time capsules planted in the brain during childhood which are worth jettisoning, like accepting your father plodding to the back of the garden to say goodbye to Fido. What remains is that which would always have been considered as top quality – such as the vast majority of Belinda Carlisle’s back catalogue, say. Or Spangles.

Finding a joyous, trouble free paradise in the past is colouring memories with contemporary prejudice, and whilst it’s natural for people to do that when reminiscing, it’s unhealthy to base arguments on those invented truths. I know what my father used to say about his youth in the 1950s and 1960s – he was born just after the Second World War – and it’s not always pleasant.

And thus I make my way to Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (as they no longer want to be called). The basic core UKIP thinking is, “the past is another country”, based on the conceit that the UK is no longer the UK whilst the past almost certainly is. Farage talks about his ultimate aim being the return of the UK as a democratic country, just as it used to be, with all those unelected, unaccountable censors of the theatre and that. The UK of the wayback machine seen by Farage is one which is unimaginable to us now, even if you’re prone to calling the Coalition some kind of time-machine to the 1950s. We enjoy far more wealth, generally, better health, broadly, greater diversity and broader, deeper job opportunities than at any time in the recent past, and you don’t have to go far away from my dad’s memories of Wigan in the 1960s to have that proven.

But Farage doesn’t want to go back to the 1960s, or the 1970s, or at least not specifically. The UKIP aim is for Britain to be pulled into a nethertime, a space between reality and nostalgia, where the UK “ruled itself”. There’s not been much of that for generations, and until the 1960s and the great liberalisation of abortion law, sexual equality legislation and lowering of the voting age, most of the “independent” United Kingdom was an insular Edwardian island complacent and dismissive.

We’ve always been Atlantic rather than European in attitude – especially post-1945 – which comes out in 21st century Britain in our language, our television programme formats, and so on. We jump to the American cough, especially when invading Middle East countries on false prospectuses. Our scoffing at the French or the Germans copies the American sneering of Canada and Mexico, and for the most part our denial over European economic strength and liberal attitudes mirrors how the USA tends not to respect their cousins over its northern border. But in being anti-European in addition to anti-future, as UKIP seem to be, they’re swapping one paranoid fear for one uncertain reality. I’d rather not be the unofficial 51st state of the USA, thanks all the same, but UKIP clearly prefers this island of ours to be an Atlantic annexe than a European player, so far enoughski on that, Nige, replacing one uneasy alliance with another one.

I would say “this is me being unfair on old Nigel Farage, bless”, and after all he has ruled out ever getting into a Coalition with David Cameron. But that’s the point, I guess; delusion. That’s all UKIP end up talking about – delusion. They’re deluded if they think they’ll ever get an MP, or even a Council of their own, or even any kind of thanks for pulling us out of a Union with our closest neighbours. That Farage thinks he is to have any say at the next election is as laughable as the memory of one-half of my family choosing to sit around the television set, of our own accord, to watch “Telly Addicts”.

closing the broomcupboard

Tell that aardvark it’s a wrap…

As part of the BBC’s race to the bottom, following the Coalition’s six-year Licence Fee freeze, there was a glut of announcements made yesterday which saw knives slashed across Auntie’s output (or if you wish to be more brutal, Auntie’s face. Her loyal, service providing face).

From BBC 3 and 4 goes much of their original drama and BBC 2 sees repeats increase. Whether BBC 3 had any to begin with is a point for another thread, perhaps, although even my pro-BBC stance tends to waver a bit in the face of the channel which gives us “Snog Marry Avoid” and “Nympho Gyppos in Changing Room Hell”.

The bigger and biggest headlines of the day came in the gush of nostalgia from journos rushing to pay tribute to ‘Blue Peter’, following the confirmation that the programme would be switched from BBC 1 to CBBC. Former presenters came to bash the decision as anti-family. In addition to the demise of ‘Blue Peter’, flagship news package ‘Newsround’ is also on its way to the digital platforms, leaving the traditional post-school, pre-homework slot (or as it was known in my house, post-school, pre-SNES-all-night-homework-later) to the likes of “Great Antique Hunt”, “Great British Menu” and “Great Big Country Homes Bought by Great Big Comfortable Families with Great Big Marriage Problems We Can Only Hint Towards in the Voice-Overs”. The switch from BBC “mainstream” to “digital” was reported in very traditional terms, a kind of “analogue is best” attitude which no longer fits very well in an era when almost all British television regions no longer have analogue signals. If there was anything about the coverage which stank a bit, it was the whiff of anti-BBC pong that often seeps through any news story like this. Oh, the media says, and usually the Daily Mail for all that may surprise you, another nail in the coffin of traditional Britain!

It’s worth taking a much wider view on this. In common with most people racing towards middle age, I remember a time when “children’s television was much better than today.” We all do. Our parents remembered their television upbringing, limited as it was, having much less glitz, glamour and miming pop performances as our generation did, and the current generation are unlikely to consider “Going Live!”, “The Raccoons” or “Byker Grove” as examples of a better age. However, and I say this as an unashamed 90s nostalgist, there is a case to be made against holding on to a dedicated late-afternoon children’s television slot and all which comes connected with it. As much as it hurts every generation to admit it, society does tend to move on when you’re just in a position to consider it a scandal when it does so. Each generation has its “Oh, no, they’re not!” moment.  For some, it was the axing of “Top of the Pops”, for others “Pick of the Pops”, and for this generation, it’s…..

….Actually, that’s a point. What has been axed? Is ‘Grange Hill’ still going?

Former ‘Blue Peter’ presenter Anthea Turner is quoted in the Daily Mail as thinly criticising the move from presenters you could name to complete unknowns. The age I grew up in saw the golden age of the show – from Mark Curry and Yvette Fielding in the 80s through to Konnie Huq and Simon Thomas as I got to the end of high school. As nice as they might be in real life, I suspect the modern day presenters were stymied by the shift to multi-channel television, changes in attitude towards children’s television output, and a sudden lack of wider opportunities for cross-over/intra-channel appearances.  In short, most 21st century presenters of the show were their own Romana D’Annunzio’s, cursed to live their television existences as unknowns, curiosities on the sea of broadcasting history.

There are parts of my television upbringing which I would bring back to the screens had I the power: Saturday mornings should have the “Live & Kicking”s and “ITV Chart Show”s which were inexplicably lost to cookery shows around the time of the first digital switchovers. There point where practicality tips over to nostalgia is the dividing line where “entertaining” should always be  chosen over “instructing how to make restaurant style food to people holding hangovers in one hand and Coco Pops in the other.”

The BBC must be applauded for trying to save money under very testing circumstances. They’ve been forced to make cutbacks in the usual storm of criticism. The Morning Star calls the BBC “right-wing”, the Daily Telegraph calls the BBC “right-wing”, we all go round the mulberry bush. We’d all like to preserve our favoured bits of history in aspic – be it school days, holidays or the theme to “Going For Gold”. The Beeb is probably right, on balance, to shunt kids TV over to digital now that the platform is not so much of a graveyard anymore. Nobody likes to admit that they’re getting older, things were better in the old days, and songs used to have tunes in my day, don’t you know? There’s a greater problem with the BBC’s current list of announcements – shrinking BBC 4, hacking BBC radio to little pieces and neglecting original drama across all its channels. Let’s get into a rage for all the right reasons.

Five Alive

Ready for the new series of “Snog, Marry, Deport” ?

It is rumoured that Richard Desmond, he the big chief at the Daily Express and Daily Star, in addition to a collection of top-shelf magazines of the one-handed entertainment variety, is at the front of the queue outside the RTL offices with a big bid for British television channel Five. If this sale goes ahead, and the Guardian is suggesting OFCOM and the Competition Commission may be having words, British television may undergo one of its biggest character shifts in generations….and all at a time when the future of the BBC looks a bit cloudier than usual.

Desmond is no fly-by-night suit. His media empire is certainly impressive, albeit one built on both extreme prejudice and porn. Both the Express and Star have spent the last 6 months becoming increasingly less subtle with their language and tone, reaching a peak (or the depths) with the former’s use of the word “Ethnics” on the front page last week. It really does grate on the teeth, doesn’t it? The Star has used the sensationalist (and untrue) headline “They’ve taken all our jobs” this year, right out of the text book of the most knuckle-dragging of extreme types.

It is worth noting, too, that the Express is home to such a regular collection of pet hates and conspirliloon articles that, if read too quickly or flicked through at speed, would give a casual reader the impression that Diana died of House Price Cancer. Whatever voice the Express and Star claim to use these days, it’s neither one of the sound majority or reasoned few. And the threat now comes from a home-grown media tycoon making his way into national television in what could be a “pincer movement” with the increasingly hyperbolic SKY News.

Channel Five, as was, launched as the final jigsaw piece in the grand plan of what was the very analogue-obsessed Broadcasting Act. Launched on a promise of “football, films and fucking”, the rebranded Five sounds like the perfect place for Desmond…but we now better than that, don’t we? With broadcasting regulations tighter than before, and the likelihood of an overtly prejudice programme not high in the first few months, Five may improve from its import heavy output at first….

…I just dread for its future in the long-run. Now I appreciate that Five has never been the place to expect The World At War or subtitled films (well, of a certain kind, mayhaps, it’s just a man like Desmond with his back-catalogue comes to the table with a certain….well, prejudice. Neither the Express nor Star hide their colours – offensive and prejudiced beyond the reasonable tone of national, mainstream newspapers.

While I’m here, I have been somewhat baffled by the reaction – largely on-line – to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s hint that the BBC licence fee could be cut. Given that most complaints normally come from people who WANT it cut, I guess it is true that you really cannot please all people all of the time. In an age of austerity, why should the BBC not have a cut in its income stream? I love the BBC, have always stood up for it against the whingers and whiners, it’s just so typical to hear the “save the BBC” calls come up on the basis of “teh evil Tories” suggesting a cut in paying for Auntie.

Look at commercial television – mayhaps Sky Arts as a potentially exciting exception – and look at the output of the BBC. Wonder what Five could turn into under the watchful eye of the proprietor of the Express (“ETHNIC BABY BOOM CRISIS”). Don’t dismiss the maxim “be careful what you wish for”.

antisocial media

One early episode of The Simpsons – maybe even the very first – showed Homer attempt to throw away the family television on the advice of Marvin Monroe. Crudely drawn and not particularly funny, the episode is also ludicrously unrealistic. Homer would no more give up TV than Duff or hotdogs.

Rather than giving up the idiot box, it has given up me. Or given up on me: my eleven year old TV/DVD combo finally stopped working earlier this month. Visiting my house recently has been a course in regression therapy; no television, no internet access. I would be a perfect candidate for David Mitchell’s “The Bubble”, although I would not be able to watch the final result. It could be edited to suggest I wasn’t there at all; or contributed nothing to the programme other than staring with desperate eyes at Victoria Coren (oh come on, she’s bound to me on, it’s a panel show).

Not having television only began to become quite annoying after the general election campaign, proof that being within the election process puts a person off the whole thing for life. It’s not just missing the football (or even cricket) that has started the process of growing tetchy at the empty box in the corner of the room. Rather than flipping open the laptop to discuss the provisional England team or the new Foals album, or whatever it was I used to do after work, (I’ll hear nothing about spending hours playing Runescape. It just didn’t….Well, okay, once. More than once. Shut up, I’ve lost my train of thought….)

….Football, yes, that’s it. I spent an hour or so putting up with Mark Bright on Radio 5 Live making the case for Glen Johnson, followed by a man whose voice I couldn’t place arguing that Phil Jagielka could still be an outside bet for South Africa. Unlike the talking heads on Sky Sports News (usually a couple of Chelsea players who last put on the shirt in 1987 and are even too Z-list for Question of Sport), I had no other option but to keep on listening. Unless it’s late enough to switch to Radio 4, channel hopping isn’t an option. It’s an analogue radio, for one, complete with competing frequencies bleeding into whatever I’m listening to; it’s like listening to the radio on acid, presenters voices turning into knife-sharp Dalek noises.

(All that said, is there still an outside chance for Villa’s Agbonlahor? Okay, okay, I know he has “Walcott Disorder”, combining a sprinter’s pace with all the shot of accuracy of a NATO bomber over Serbia, I’m a traditionalist with forwards….)

Listening to recent events on the radio only adds a certain atmospheric flavour. Athens and Bangkok going up in flames has all description and atmosphere of a radio play. I fall asleep to Radio 4, waking up to the final broadcasts of the World Service before the Shipping Forecast. In short, I’m going slowly insane. One more night where dreams are infected by the commentary of South Asian farming communities or interviews with Bulgaria’s most high-profile opposition backbencher, and I may very well go on a rampage.

It’s not that I ignore the bigger pictures here – Britain has far too many low- and middle- income earners who cannot afford digital television or access to broadband internet, and the previous Labour Government failed to do anything about our lobsided telecommunications industry stifling the introduction of superfast broadband – it’s just after a month of not having even the chance to slump in front of Come Dine With Me has finally taken its toll. I am going to start taking brisk walks around town or cleaning up more often or something else equally out of character.

All things being well – and my financial state means, this could be a lofty boast – I should be purchasing a new netbook in two weeks time. Until then, no iPlayer, no messageboards, no late night MSN sessions sharing 80s theme tunes with my mates (what do you mean, ‘how old am I?’). From a distance, maybe it seems like a good thing, not having any access to the world outside bar the crackle and hiss of an analogue radio. Thing is, I know what not to be romantic about, and this sure ain’t a situation I want to fall in love with.

Plus ça change…

Maybe I should not be so surprised. Word hits the newspapers that the planned Leaders Debates prior to the next UK general election have been “negotiated to death

I dare say this quote was spoken in the same style as a soap opera “baddie”, who having pushed his wife down the stairs assures a worried sibling that “Mummy just slipped.”

Labour didn’t want these debates in the first place. That much was obvious by the very slow reaction – such as it was – from Gordon Brown. His bulldozing interview technique would have killed any spontaneity in the debates anyway, had the audience not been filled by party hacks and ordered not to ask questions.

In the US, Presidential Debates are often stifled by rules and contracts as thick as Whitaker’s Almanack. What a pity the UK version has gone the same way. There is a lot more to do by way of attracting audiences to politics in general, never mind specific television programmes, so although the debates were flawed in theory they could have done some good in practice.

Critics of the Leaders Debates always assumed the UK model wouldn’t fit. “It would be like being caught wanking to ‘Pants Off, Dance Off'”, that sort of thing. My optimism for all things modern, new, and different looked at these televised debates with less cynical eyes; in good hands, all three leaders would have seen their reputations enhanced. David Cameron could have even been shown real-time repeats of his previous answers to assist in stopping his usual trick of contradicting himself mid-programme.

Alas, these events are clearly not likely to happen. If the suits don’t get in the way, either the Champions League or just-as-vital-no-really Eurovision Song Contest are scheduled for the run-up to polling day. Another small glimmer of modernisation in UK politics is extinguished.

….plus c’est la même chose.

telly addicts

So, farewell then, analogue television.

From tomorrow in two English regions, and Wales, the second installment of the national switch-off begins. For people of all ages an era ends: for my generation it is perhaps the final installment of a gradual up-grade process from the four channels in the 80s, through basic Cable television, to the ability to pause live programming in a fashion not even predicted by the usually excitable studio of Tomorrow’s World.

Looking back through my memory banks shows just how important in my life the box in the corner of the room has been. As a child, I was particularly over-excited by regional-opt outs, icons and logos, anything it would seem except the programmes themselves. The faintest echo of the Children In Need “Let’s go round the regions” anthem still filters around my head, a triumph of my anorak nature and the ability of the Beeb to write a catchy tune which could withstand the slight delays inherent in switching from the studios in Edinburgh to a car-park outside Eccles. If you want to help – DRUM – help Children In Need. It’s all flooding back….

In the early years of cable television in this area, I would tiptoe to the front room to channel flick until the sun came up. In later years it was, I concede, more to do with the promise of untold thrills during The Adult Channel’s preview adverts, although at first even the chance of watching a channel close down that wasn’t the BBC interested me something rotten. In those days – how odd does that sound, and yet how true! – BBC One still closed down, playing the national anthem over a spinning globe before fading to black.

As a defender of the licence fee I hope talk of “top slicing” the funding to other channels does not occur if the consequence is a weaker, lesser BBC. That most of my viewing and listening comes from the BBC is not just an unwillingness to channel-surf; I happen to prefer most of the Corporation’s output to that on ITV and, sadly I have to say, a lot of what is now broadcast on Channel 4. There was a time when it felt daring and exciting to watch 4, often with the sound turned down and a pillow under my bedroom door to ensure nobody spotted I was watching The Word, or the “red light zone” themed programming seemingly broadcast for the benefit of my youthful development (if I can phrase it that way).

Channel 4 maintains some high standards, although even its own time flagship programmes Cutting Edge, and Dispatches, have become sensationalist and boring.

Tomorrow will mark the next-step in the advancing of Britain’s digital broadcasting age. I must look back with some nostalgia at the advances of yesteryear which somehow seem terribly quaint by today’s standards: flick a switch on a channel now to access the all-day broadcasting schedules of a hundred channels, on the former Cable North West service there was one screen with a scrolling schedule information display and a 30-minute cut-off.

Maybe the box in the corner will be pushed back even further into the shadows if television-on-demand, iPlayer, downloads and so on continue to become more popular with the viewing public. Maybe television itself will cease to be thought of in terms of separate channels and networks as commitment to single brands continues to dissolve. All I know is, the manner of watching the screen has certainly changed beyond all recognition but the little child inside is still humming the theme tune to Live & Kicking and wondering if he’ll ever see the HTVWales logo again…..

Derren Brown – after the event

Earlier this month I explained the letter sent to Channel 4 following Derren Brown’s “prediction show“. With no reply from them the letter was forwarded to OFCOM, the UK Office of Communications and broadcasting watchdog.

Their reply has not upheld my concerns about the broadcast.

Derren Brown claimed he would broadcast a live lottery prediction show on 9 September, followed by an “explanation” show the following Friday. My concern focused on the misleading nature of the trails, and the lack of a disclaimer advising viewers that the programme would not, in reality, be an actual live prediction.

OFCOM have replied in the following terms…

…[A]fter reviewing the material we do not judge there has been a breach of our regulations.

Whatever solution viewers believed, or whether [his explanations] was all part of the ‘showmanship’ as he indicated at the start of the programme, is a matter for individual viewers to decide.

That he did not definitively clear up how he guessed the lottery numbers is not a problem for us as the regulator.

And there shall I leave it.

Sleeping with John Peel

Bad memory and the passing of years has reduced the number of bands I can claim were introduced to me by listening to John Peel to just one – The Sundays. Over many years, though, I would go through the ritual of taking the kitchen radio from its home on top of the microwave, settling down to sleep with my ear close to the nutmeg-grater style speaker, for a night of tuning into various radio stations at low volume.

“Tuning in the radio” – there’s an anachronism if there ever was one. Moving an aerial across all manner of angles to avoid the bleeding of French or German voices into a favourite song, or finding obscure regional radio stations by accidentally tuning out of something you wanted to keep hearing. I recall an exchange between radio presenter and caller on Manx FM (“I have never liked the English, I’ve got a gun!”, that sort of thing).

But where has all that gone? I own a multi-band radio (including the scanning frequencies for police radio and CB enthusiasts, both gone the way of electronic glitches and whistles. By rights I should by now earn a living as a glitch-core DJ armed with hours of unique samples). By turning the dial only by the most tiny of fractions, multi-language commentary, unusual soundtracks, and regional accents, seep through the crackle and white-noise. The modern digital radio stations have none of this romance of discovery or research; channels are pre-programmed, labelled, categorised. There’s no accidental stumbling over a song or joke or sporting event.

I love iPlayer to bits but even late-night radio is stored so it can be listened again in the morning. Or during lunch. Or never again. I remember during the yesteryear midnight hours Radio Five in its pre-sport days used to have very funny comedy shows. Where is the romance of accidentally tuning into the BBC World Service when it can be found on Sky or Freeview?

Adults of a certain age will recall, too, the yearly or twice-yearly ritual of buying a new television only to spend most of that day shouting “Mum! What’s on three now? Channel 3, channel 3, ITV, is it adverts now?” while using an increasingly bruised thumb to tune-in the channels by hand. The sheer joy of stumbling over HTV Wales or S4C has been replaced by….Well, nothing. There’s not even the accidental channel-hopping of Italian adult movies as used to occur – not frequently enough! yells the 14-year old me – when Cable North West was in its infancy.

Maybe this is all very well and good, but there’s Zane Lowe now (well, okay, he was around in my youth too….) And iTunes coupled with Wikipedia as a kind of new-music “tag-team” means the liklihood of Steve Lamacq launching someone massive as once may have been true (Star 27, oh what could have been….) is diminished. Not killed entirely, but as with most parts of my memory of things the Internet Age as clearly altered entertainment and pastimes for good. Television has changed forever, in both technological terms and content. Radio has a new “sound with pictures” existence on-line, webcams and podcasts more common than “tune in again this time next week”.

I won’t forget those late nights, though. Muffled sound, Shipping Forecast, and the late great John Peel, as signposts to a time which will not return again. Some of the concentric circles of fashion have clearly be severed.