Radio Einstein to fight dumbing down

15th January 1999 at 00:00
MEMBERS of Britain's intellectual and creative elite are planning to set up a radio station that will gladden discriminating ears.

Radio Einstein, which could be launched early next year, would "unashamedly" broadcast "classical and modern music and tough, argumentative reviews and discussions", says the playwright Howard Brenton. He announces the plan in an article attacking the "dumbing down" of British culture which appears in The TES this week (page 18).

Mr Brenton sees the proposed station as the first assault in a war against falling standards in the media and in arts programming which, he says, have reduced the theatre to a "pre-war Noel Cowardish state" and led "self-hating liberals" in the television drama departments to neglect Brecht in favour of "another cop show with a serial killer plot".

While Mr Brenton is a keen supporter of the proposed station, it was really the idea of his friend and artistic collaborator Tariq Ali. Mr Ali, a former left-wing student radical who now runs his own television production company, conceived the idea while listening on his car radio to "some pretty crass thing on Radio 4".

Mr Ali says: "I'm often maddened by Radio 3 and Radio 4, it's just depressing, actually." He wants to create a station that would be "very much a modern version of the old Third Programme", a minority station for, he hopes, a very large minority of two to three million people.

Mr Ali's main collaborators are the composer Michael Nyman and Dominic Gill, former music critic and co-founder of Loot magazine. They will meet next week to discuss the feasibility and mechanics of setting up the proposed station.

Brenton and Ali have collaborated before. Last year they produced Ugly Rumours, a play satirising New Labour.

The group will need to seek financial backing for Radio Einstein Ltd. (So far, the response to informal soundings is said to be "just phenomenal".) Programme content will not be a problem, says Mr Ali, because "with our collective contacts all over the globe we could produce a very powerful high-brow station with no trouble at all".

In his article, Mr Brenton makes clear he does not belong to the "curmudgeonly element" who blame the schools for dumbing down. In fact, he says a good case can be made that the national curriculum is well designed to open doors to literature and drama.

He salutes the huge effort to interest Year 9 students in Shakespeare. But the broader national culture does not reinforce it.

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