Eyes or Ears?

singing together pic

It seems to me that we [by which I mean humans in the 21st century] are gradually becoming reliant on sight for information, entertainment and communication.

We look at screens, ‘text’, watch videos, click on things, send pictures, receive pictures, ‘like’, insert emojis. Sometimes we read things.

I’ve posted before about how you can see groups sitting together in a bar or restaurant. all staring at their tiny screens. But this reliance on sight over the other senses appears to be growing and also becoming heavily image-biased.

Harking back to the fifties and sixties [as I am inclined to sometimes], as a child I listened to the radio. Although we acquired a TV [tiny screen, huge cabinet, black and white], as a family we sat together to listen to a range of radio programmes, from comedy to history, from current affairs to literature. I have strong memories of being unable to sleep,  terrified by listening to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Speckled Band’-a tale of a snake that was trained to slither down a bell pull and kill on a whistle signal.

‘Round the Horn’, a comedy sketch show which aired at lunchtimes was a family favourite, as was ‘The Navy Lark’.

There was also ‘Children’s Hour’, which had me glued to the radio each evening, especially for serialised books. After hearing ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ read in instalments I became a devoted fan of the entire Narnia series and still have the treasured, childhood copy of the book that I longed for, the Christmas I was 7 years old and woke up, thrilled to find on the end of my bed on Christmas morning.

At school we were accustomed to radio programmes as part of our curriculum. ‘Singing Together’ taught us about music. We sat at our desks following the songs in little pamphlets and joining in to learn the songs as requested by the presenter.

We cavorted to ‘Music and Movement’, following the instructions, and listened, spellbound, to history reconstructions as seen through the eyes of time-travelling children.

And nowadays, in later life I continue to be a fan of talk radio, listening in to news, current affairs, magazine programmes, consumer programmes, arts, literature, comedy, plays and much, much more. I’ve also continued to listen to a daily ‘soap’ drama that our ancient babysitter was addicted to, sixty years ago! This is the UK’s longest running soap-The Archers, which began life as a farming programme and grew into its wellies as a story of provincial life. Over the years themes have covered infidelity, bereavement, mental illness, crime, coercive control, sibling rivalry, poverty and homelessness, besides lost cats, floods, hoaxes and amateur dramatics. Nods are made to current affairs [recent references have been made to Brexit].

But how many people listen to talk radio these days? The way we take in news and entertainment is changing fast, with new platforms emerging every day. At school children learn from interactive white boards-all visual. How often do they get to use only their listening, without distraction?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. What do you think?

Odious ads and Radio Balm

                I always consider we are lucky, here in the UK, to have a commercial free broadcaster. Yes, I know that the BBC has had to take some stick for transgressions lately, both current and historic, -but during periods of travel, when we have had to digest news alongside adverts, I’ve found the TV almost impossible to watch. You get one, aggressively hyper story, delivered in a full-on, excitable manner, followed by what seems like half an hour of fragrant persuasion on the subject of Durex condoms or haemorrhoid cream. The adverts are always much louder than the programme itself, which to me is a most annoying, cynical and patronising ruse.

                Though I seldom watch commercial channels, when I do I am able to appreciate the artistry, irony or wit of the entertaining advert. Many, such as the Cadbury’s Smash ads for instant mashed potato in the 70s, or the Guinness ads of the 90s belong to a kind of commercials ‘hall of fame’. Many, like the Meerkats ‘Simples’ begin by being entertaining and become increasingly tiresome as time goes by.

                One thing I find hard to understand is how advertising can possibly work. I cannot think of one single commodity that I’ve bought as a result of watching a TV commercial. I can see how children become ensnared by their wiles, but fully functioning adults should be able to resist, surely? Or are we all prey to some underlying, subconscious thread that works away when we are unaware or asleep?

                Then there are all the annoying, animated ads that dot the screen when we’re attempting to undertake a serious Scrabble move, share what we are cooking for dinner on FB, look at a news website, forward a funny email or put in a bid on Ebay. They are there, flickering and buzzing away off to the side or on top. Sometimes a little delicate scrolling can put them out of sight, or there is a chance to ‘hide’ them, but mostly they continue to blemish the screen. Heaven knows what any of them are for-I certainly don’t look and I don’t know anyone who does.

                Most of all I’m a fan of talk radio. I can get my regular dose of a ‘soap’, news updates, documentaries, comedy, comment and debate, magazine programmes, consumer programmes, quality plays and literature without any kind of interruption from anyone trying to sell me anything. And all of this can be delivered while I’m occupied, undertaking the sort of menial tasks that might otherwise be quite tedious, such as ironing, washing the floor or peeling potatoes. The visual image, I feel is overrated, just as books, for me are generally superior to their film versions. I expect it’s a generational thing, setting me, as usual, amongst the dinosaurs of the world!