Monday, 22 February 2010

Serious thinking

Two articles report on a renewed ‘interest in serious thinking’ and high culture. Adam Cohen in The New York Times is astonished by the range and wisdom on display in the podcasts of Melvyn Bragg’s Radio 4 series In Our Time, while Ian Burrell praises the excellence of BBC4’s output. Burrell suggests this is proof of ‘a hunger for intelligent broadcasting’ as is the success of the podcast of British Museum director Neil MacGregor’s Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 objects. He might also point to the audience figures for Radio 4 generally and those of the unashamedly highbrow Radio 3, as well as the sell-out audiences for classical music concerts at London’s South Bank and the widespread success of literary festivals. The ever excellent Nigeness takes a dystopian view of this phenomenon, believing it to be an attempt by audiences failed by the current education system to catch up with culture that was once their’s by right. Certainly what is apparent is the phenomenon’s dependency on the BBC licence fee. The small but aspirational audiences of BBC4 and Radios 3 and 4 are subsidized by the 13 million or so who seek out the daily slanging match that is Eastenders, rather as opera goers and modern arts lovers enjoy the (slightly) cheaper seats and infinitely better facilities provided by those who fork out hard-earned cash on a lottery ticket.

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