Friday 10 January 2014

Technical News

As regular readers might be aware, I from time to time mention Radio 4's Book at Bedtime - not always in the most flattering terms (search 'Book at Bedtime' on Nigeness) - and it continues to provide a mild background irritant or soporific as I take my nightly bath. The other night - Wednesday it was - something rum happened. Instead of the promised third episode of The Lonely Londoners, Trinidadian author Samuel Selvon's account of life in London in the 1950s, an episode of Absolute Beginners, Colin McInnes's account of life in London in the 1950s, was played. What's more, no one seemed to notice until it was over, when there was a hasty apology. Absolute Beginners is scheduled for next week - clearly, Radio 4 is determined to leave us with a very thorough grounding in life in London in the 1950s - but somehow an episode must have got picked up and played in error. No one, it seemed, was listening - or no one at the BBC anyway...
  More mystifyingly, the Radio 4 6pm news bulletin went missing on Sunday, leaving the hapless continuity announcer to tread water, in increasing desperation, for eight whole minutes. (Back in the old days, she could just have announced 'There are no news today' and returned to the Savoy Orpheans...) 'Technical problems' were, as ever, to blame - as they were when a recent Bob Harris programme on Radio 2 was afflicted by an 'echo' that made it all but inaudible, and again was not noticed by anyone at the BBC until, finally, a barrage of calls and tweets from listeners drew a belated response.
  As with the frequent communications breakdowns on Radio 4's Today programme ('We seem to have lost the line...'), it seems that the more high-tech and state-of-the-art the technology gets, the more prone it becomes to embarrassing breakdowns. And, because of a touching faith in the infallibility of the technology, a total reliance on it has developed, meaning there's often no back-up, no old-style analog Plan B. The human element in the set-up is left to flounder helplessly (if it's there at all - much of this stuff is done by computers). Was this ever better illustrated - or in a more appropriate setting - than by director Michael Bay's performance at the super-high-tech Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when the teleprompter went down?
Oh dear.


  1. Thank goodness the gremlins didn't attack 'Believe it!' Richard Wilson giving excerpts from his biography, some of which may even be true. Very, very funny.

  2. I give a very wide berth to the sort of films made by Michael Bay - but as they make $Billions for the studios, we can safely assume they will keep coming. Forcing myself to sit through the toe-curling vid was worth it for the exquisite tremble of schadenfreude, as the poor sap, let down by the very technology that has made him famous, looked in vain for a hole to jump into! What a great way to start the week-end!

  3. Just noticed that this piece was headed 'Techincal News' - owing to a technical problem of course...