This ‘Jewish ra­dio’ is a dis­grace

The long-time You Don’t Have To Be Jewish pre­sen­ter re­views the out­put of JCom ra­dio

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS -

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.jcom­ra­ — 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

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