Here's an unusual thing: this month's issue of iconic tech mag Wired, house journal of the digital elite (recently revived in the UK by US parent Condé Nast after some years out of the market) classified Radio 4 as 'Wired', here meaning cool or contemporary or just useful. Here in The Castle we were quite surprised to be so honoured so I jumped on the telephone to Associate Editor and regular Radio 4 contributor Ben Hammersley and asked if he'd explain. Ben writes:

    It's a small thing to cause such a fuss, and to end with my being asked to write here to justify myself. As associate editor of Wired magazine, one of my jobs is to write the monthly Wired/Tired/Expired column - where we, as infallible judges of all that is cutting edge, educate the public as to things that are, indeed, Wired, Tired, or Expired. As such it fell to us in our July issue to rate Radio 4 as Wired.

    As a good reader of the Radio 4 Blog, you'll have no issue with our rating. It's practically too obvious to print. Nevertheless, protests have come. Not from our readers, but rather from within the BBC: "Us, Wired?" they say, "We don't tweet our mindblurts or e-friend our arduino wave posts. The nearest we get to a digg is when John Humphrys snarks an MP at 8.10am." Some people I know at Radio 4 worry that they they're anywhere near cool or digital enough.

    Well, quite. As a long time listener, and occasional presenter, I do have a great love for Radio 4. But more to the point, it's the very old-school approach that the network takes to its content that makes us list it as "Wired". With every new medium, every new conduit for people to receive content, professional or amateur, lengthy or tweet-sized, the public becomes ever more discerning about what is good, and what isn't.

    Radio 4 might move from the airwaves to the internet, it might go podcast-only, or from ear-based to direct neural interface - but no matter what the future brings people will still want to consume good content made for the medium. Radio 4 does this, we try to do this with our magazine, and we think it's the only way to go. That's why we think they're Wired, and that's why you're here too.

    • Wired UK's web site.
    • Ben has made several programmes for Radio 4. Listen to My DNA, an Analysis from December last year about 'predictive genetics' and his edition of The Report (the programme is available to listen again), about cybercrime, from April this year.
    • Ben's Wikipedia entry.


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    • Comment number 1. Posted by kleines c

      on 17 Jun 2009 04:24

      'The Financial Times' leads this morning on the BBC needing surgery, Steve, however hard or soft wired Radio 4 really is in 2009.

      Of course, the FT, newspapers and other media are all competitors of the BBC, so they are naturally going to be critical of elements of the funding of the BBC, for example, not to mention more esoteric considerations, such as wiring, coolness and use. Nevertheless, I, for example, listen to the 'Today' programme as I read the light salmon pink newspaper in the morning (I need to know a lot about business), so it is not necessarily a case of one (John Humphrys grilling the cat on 'Today') or the other (playing footsie in 'The City').

      If we were to consider some kind of brain microsurgery on 'The Radio 4 Blog' this morning, for example, Steve, what wiring would I like to improve? Well, if the patient is going to survive the digital revolution, and it is possible that the BBC will still find it to be more of a digital wall over coming decades, then it has to find ways of doing more for the 'common good' (see this year's Reith Lectures).

      In terms of 'The New Citizen', that means providing him and/or her with a series of forums in which the values which our global society wishes to promote can be discussed. Whether consensus is possible on a lot of issues, I have my doubts, yet such is the human condition. We have to allow for some kind of narrative indeterminancy, if only to give ourselves the flexibility to change our minds in the future.

      In my opinion, we need a multiplicity of approaches, which implies many wires, and soft wiring more than hard wiring, if only to interconnect with different ways of thinking (and multi-disciplinary approaches to the great challenges humanity faces in the third millennium CE). I am sure that you are more than up for the challenge this morning, Steve! Cheers (breakfast coffee)!


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