Valerie Grove

Long Wavering Radio

Life on Air: A History of Radio Four


Oxford University Press 500pp £25 order from our bookshop

Something terrible happened while I was reading this book. I almost fell out of love with Radio Four. How could this be? I am one of Radio Four’s legions of champions. I fill my ‘Wireless’ column in The Oldie with praise for Desert Island Discs and The Archive Hour. Nothing about this network, born forty years ago on a September morn with Farming Today at 6.35am, could possibly bore me. But David Hendy has sorely tried my devotion. Hendy was the producer of Analysis and The World Tonight – excellent examples of what makes Radio Four the envy of the civilised world. He dissects for us the BBC office politics, the ego-trips and internecine wars that have somehow contrived to produce, over four decades, Radio Four’s audience-winning formula. Yet an encomium from Ned Sherrin (‘Revelatory in its detail – on a very special and important subject’) suggests the somewhat lifeless quality of Hendy’s history. 

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