Wednesday 18 February 2009, 17:45
The Moral Maze is 500. Tonight's programme at 8 p.m. is thus somewhat special - taking place in front of an audience. It is almost always live (and then repeated on Saturday nights at 2215) which gives it a certain sort of crackle. The subject tonight is suitably large - "Can a post-religious society be a moral society?"
The programme - like many of the best things on Radio 4 - divides opinion sharply. There are those who regard the heat/light ratio as inappropriate to a radio station that prides itself on reason, tolerance, and a certain temperate tone. There are those who dislike the avowedly adversarial format. And, of course, there are those who dislike particular members of the panel.
On the other hand - the combative tone can be fun (and nobody is forced to appear), it is a different way of examining contemporary concerns, it rarely leaves me (or many others) unengaged and shouting at the radio (which I do sometimes during transmission) is not a bad indicator of a programme's ability to stimulate thought. And Michael Buerk - after nearly twenty years - is very good at both stopping outbreaks of physical violence in the studio - and adding a certain stylish reasonableness.
From which you will gather that I am a fan.
Why not at 0900 - where it was for the first half of its life? Tricky. It would come after the Today programme - itself not without abrasion - and I think the feeling when it was moved was that there was a surfeit of argument on days when the Maze followed Today. It is far from an unreasonable point of view. As a result of the Maze's transfer - various other interview formats developed and have done well. One of them (The Choice) stars none other than Michael Buerk. So we have not got the room to do everything I'd like at 0900 and bring back The Maze. But the problem sits there... Meanwhile I am endeavouring to increase the profile of The Maze by trailing it more on the days of transmission. Michael's trails have a certain... relish.
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