sábado, 18 de julio de 2009
Station to Station: BFBS Radio
British soldiers on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Photograph: John D McHugh/AFP/Getty imagesBFBS Radio, the station for Britain's armed forces, is charmingly light, and surprisingly welcoming towards civvies
British soldiers on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Photograph: John D McHugh/AFP/Getty images
I'm not in the Royal Navy, Army or Royal Air Force, and don't know anybody in them, but last week I tuned into the station for Britain's armed forces – known as BFBS Radio – and after their interview with Gordon Brown, decided to carry on listening.
Despite the fact that BFBS is available on DAB radio I felt as if I was trespassing. This is a radio station for our men and women in the armed forces, to help their friends and family keep in touch, and to raise the morale of people facing daily life or death situations. It's not meant for some North London berk to listen to while he rustles up the kids' nuggets and curly fries.
Before the internet, when I was a kid, I got my random home-thrills stumbling across what I considered to be "secret" radio stations. This was back when pirate radio was run by actual pirates, with parrots on their shoulders and peg legs. Shanty FM, that was a good one. Arrgh.
My favourite "secret station" was the one for the nearby American Air Force base, which featured actual Americans talking in real American accents, with late-night commentaries on baffling sports (baseball, ice hockey). I was expecting to get a similar sense of forbidden territory from BFBS, but I didn't at all. Any insurgents or enemy agents listening in hope of discovering vital information would be similarly disappointed.
In reality, it's almost exactly like a BBC local radio station circa 1985. The stings and jingles are certainly from that period, and the voiceover that lists the far flung places they broadcast to ("from Gibraltar to Belize") sounds suspiciously similar to Alan Partridge's Radio Norwich ("Wivenhoe, Flitwick, Tiptree, Holbeach, Pinchbeck, Terrington St Clement, Thetford Forest: it's 10pm ... "). Rather pleasantly, the manner of the DJs seem to hark back to this era, too.
When your audience is the armed forces, broadcasting appropriately is a difficult line – it can't be frivolous (that would demean everything), nor too serious or boring (you don't want to demotivate or depress people with guns). Instead, the DJs on BFBS are themselves: they keep everything straight and light, and almost, almost, avoid trivial meandering. At least I think that's what's going on; BFBS might just have very cleverly employed a bunch of DJs with absolutely no personality.
Nowhere is the tricky politics of armed forces broadcasting more apparent than the news bulletins – which veer towards forces-interest stories, but steadfastly manage to stay on the fence, presenting both leftwing and rightwing viewpoints. They even had a soundbite from an anti-war campaigner the other day. Not that the news department is totally immune to cock-ups. Midweek they crossed to a commentator before the kick off at a Royal Marines v ex-Premiership charity rugby match, just at the start of a minute's silence for soldiers killed in Afghanistan, forcing the commentator to chose between his duty to broadcast and respectful dead air. Realising their error, he was cut off mid-whisper.
The music is fantastically arbitrary, with soft-rock ballads sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Maximo Park and Calvin Harris. I didn't hear Status Quo's In the Army Now – that would have been poignant, although I expect it's just one of thousands of songs on their Must Not Play list. Who knows what effect waking up to a chorus of Culture Club's "war is stupid and people are stupid" would have.My favourite BFBS DJ is Sim, the breakfast DJ who does a brilliant line in toned-down wacky. Desperate to unleash his inner Timmy Mallet, Sim reduces his silliness to between-song links – on Tuesday, he superbly leapt from Blur's Country House to an acknowledgement that it was Bastille Day in France: "That was Blur, back in focus now – the irony being of course that Alex James did actually end up in a country house, where he made cheese. Talking of cheese ... "
It makes yer proud.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/tvandradioblog/2009/jul/17/british-forces-broadcasting-servicevia Yimber Gaviria. Noticias de la Radiohttp://yimber-gaviria.blogspot.com