Radio 3 is known as the BBC’s classical music station, but that description sells it short. It provides just over 2 million people with all sorts of minority programming: in fact I am not listening to the Theban Plays of Sophocles right now because I cannot listen to one set of words and type another.
Who else would broadcast Lifehouse, an obscure play (or is it an opera, ach, Pete Townsend calls it a ‘project’) which combines music by The Who with cyber-fiction and spiritual commentary?
What other broadcaster would broadcast the complete works of J S Bach over a ten day period, as Radio 3 did last Advent?
Classic FM’s presenters drop their voice by a third or so and talllk realllly smoo-oo-thly. They tell you to relllaxssss with Classssic eFFFFF eMMMM, and intersperse their cheap seductions with advertisements for chocolate and weekends in York or Bath. The presenters on Radio 3 tell you what the music is, who is playing it, and maybe provide you with a fact or a point of interpretation to help you understand what you are listening to.
Radio 3 is unafraid of its own intelligence. If you want arrogance and exclusivity go to Radio 1. If you want radio that is easy on the ear and easy on the brain go to Radio 2. If you want radio that is politically engaged go to Radio 4. If you want the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves go to Classic tweeting FM. If you want radio that considers its subjects for their own sake, engages with them on their own level and as a result is neither repetitive, patronising nor pretentious then go to Radio 3.
It is shocking that the 60th anniversary of the Third Programme went past earlier this year unannounced, unnoticed and uncelebrated.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of Britain’s unsung National Treasures, and thanks to internet technology a wonder of the world, I present to you BBC Radio 3.