Friday, 20 March 2009

In our Time: a national treasure

I wonder whether, anywhere in the world, there exists such a civilised and important radio programme as "In Our Time" on BBC radio 4. In a 45 minute broadcast, also available on the web through BBC iplayer, each week it picks an important intellectual topic from history, science, art, philosophy, literature and gathers three or four academic experts to discuss and expound the subject, guided and kept on track by its 'host' Melvyn Bragg. Occasionally the discussion fails to convey a clear understanding of the key points of a subject to the listeners, perhaps because the subject is too complex for the medium or because the host does not quite understand it himself and so the potential wisdom and knowledge is not controlled and channelled but evaporates in all directions. But these times are rare.

Recent subjects have ranged from "The Measurement Problem in Physics", through "The library of Alexandria" to "The Brothers Grimm". It is a jewel that, on its own, justifies the entire BBC licence fee.

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