I would always choose radio over television… except on election night

"The sorrow in the eyes of Jim Murphy and the absolute joy in the face of Caroline Lucas hit me harder than any political analysis or probing questions"

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Election fever has made me sick. It must have done. I have experienced my own radical swing. I found myself, as the night of the long political knives segued into the bleary hours of dawn, switching off my radio and turning to BBC1 as the declarations were made.

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I don’t do much campaigning in this line of work, but the one thing that has always brought me to the Radio Times equivalent of a battle bus has been fighting British radio’s corner — with my family, friends and, indeed, my colleagues at work. Whether it’s live music, arts and culture, news and analysis, literature, drama, readings, science and nature, politics, global coverage, nothing that TV offers can beat radio. It stimulates the mind and engages consciousness in a direct and entirely personal way. I would always choose radio over television.

Until now.

Last night I shuddered at Jeremy Paxman’s cringe-making attempts at humour on Channel 4, was bemused by the apparent state of growing panic at ITN on how to fill in the time and soon wearied of the predictable combination of David Dimbleby, Andrew Neil, Jeremy Vine and gaudily coloured graphics on BBC1. I switched on Radio 4 and let James Naughtie and Carolyn Quinn talk me through the first results.

But as the night wore on I realised that something was missing. It was not their analysis or their questions. It was not the tireless journalists bringing in reports of the results from around the country. It was not even the dodgy sound links on occasions.  

It was the ability to see the faces of the politicians who’d lost their seats or were returned victorious. The haunted visage of Simon Hughes, the sorrow in the eyes of Jim Murphy and, much later, the absolute joy in the face of Caroline Lucas hit me harder than any political analysis or probing questions.

Radio can do everything TV can do with bells on. But it can’t show you a human face, live, at a precise moment of utter joy or sorrow. For once television won me over. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow and stay that way until the next general election.

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Jane Anderson is radio editor of Radio Times magazine

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