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November 2012

The phone-in is the staple of so many radio stations. Hours and hours are filled (cheaply) with people calling in with their views. Some are considered and thoughtful. Most alas are only an airing of hard views, prejudices and instant reaction. ‘It’s all the fault of ……,’ ‘ X is useless and must go,’ ‘It’s never been right since we got rid of/started …..’ Footballers and their managers, politicians, teachers, parents, social workers – all with many others are put in the spotlight of the self-appointed calling in. It fills the hours, but we move on unchanged.

I like conversations, listening and exchanging views. They are how we grow. Most of the best bits of the Bible are full of them. And sometimes phone-ins can grow into just that. A caller with a profound personal story; a sensitive host; a guest expert who wants to listen rather than simply shout their own opinions; it does work sometimes. But mostly they just graze the surface of things, loudly and repetitively, until we remember that the best switch is sometimes the ‘off’ one. Someone has said their piece. No one listened carefully, took up their point and found something new growing out of it. Nothing changes...’

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