This ‘Jewish radio’ is a disgrace
The long-time You Don’t Have To Be Jewish presenter reviews the output of JCom radio
THIS PAPER once called me the granddaddy of Jewish radio. Well, grandfathers — particularly Jewish grandfathers — love to talk about their grandchildren. However, if anyone would like to suggest a relationship between me and JCom radio, I shall immediately consult my solicitor.
This so-called radio station — “Jewish radio for a new generation”, it claims — is not just poor: with one shining exception, it’s poverty-stricken.
It is technically inept — the presenters not only have no idea how to use a microphone, the people twiddling the knobs and operating the slides need lessons to prevent your computer vibrating like a lorry rumbling over an unmade road. But worse, after listening one evening this week over the internet ( www.jcomradio.net) — where it is now exclusively broadcasting every weekday evening — I have to ask: why bother?
A Jewish radio station needs to justify its existence by being Jewish. The news programme had a lot going for it — although why it did a feature on Northern Rock and then on the eve of the Annapolis conference totally ignored the event, I have no idea. In many ways, though, it was very good. That apart — and Israeli records on Bedtime With Daniel — there was little about this operation that made me want to listen.
Jewish content appears to be non-existent. An interview with the chairman of Liberal Judaism, Nigel Cole, looked promising. Except that the interview seemed to concentrate entirely on one question: “Have you met any interesting people?”
Yes, we were told, the gentleman had met the Queen. Great.
And what happened? Well, the lights went out and one of his party said to her: “Perhaps you haven’t paid the bill.” Her Majesty was not amused. And talking about Ma’am, said the presenter — Rabbi Pete Tobias — let’s play a record by Queen.
There are a number of lessons to be learnedaboutJewishradio.Myownprogramme, You Don’t Have To Be Jewish, ran on the BBC and then LBC for 24 years.
The object was, we said, to tell Jewish stories through Jewish eyes, but not necessarily exclusively to Jewish ears. (A Catholic priest once wrote asking for a repeat broadcast. “As you know, I have other things to do on a Sunday morning.”)
But we weren’t interested in people who just happened to be Jews, yet had nothing Jewish to say.
We played only Jewish music, and spoke to every Prime Minister of Israel from Golda Meir to Shimon Peres. And also to every British PM from Harold Wilson to John Major, about AngloJewry or Israel. Tony Blair spoke to us on community problems just before he became Labour leader.
We did the first interviews with refuseniks in Russia — later rebroadcast on the BBC World Service and Radio Four. We were constantly on Pick of the Week, talking to Jackie Mason one week, meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi the next.
From all this, you might think a hefty dose of sour grapes was on my menu. But as Sam Goldwyn once said, we have all passed a lot of water since the days I ran YDHTBJ, and I have no desire to go into competition.
What I dislike most about JCom — the news programme apart — is its appalling amateurism. Perhaps someone ought to organise a training scheme for budding broadcasters. This station certainly needs it. Michael Freedland’s pre-recorded Radio Two series, The Bing Crosby Trail, continues at 7pm this evening and can be heard on the BBC website at any time