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The Stirrer’s Talk-In Radio Blog (3)

WHO ARE YOU?

07-03-2009

Adrian Goldberg

Stirrer editor Adrian Goldberg delivers his latest self-indulgent masterclass in the art of phone-in radio. This week – who listens to an overnight show?

“You must get a lot of pissed callers, then?”

The guest who’d turned up for the Ian Collins’ show which goes out before mine was making the usual mistake of imagining that a five hour phone-in at the most unfashionable time of day must be listened to by a collection of ravaged drunkards. Either that, or lonely insomniacs desperate for someone to talk to.

No doubt both groups make up a proportion of the audience as I go through from 1am to 6am but what’s heartening – and yes, surprising – is just how many ‘normal’ people are out there.

Who are they? Where do they come from?

Before I landed this shift I confess I would have had the same prejudices as anyone else - i.e. that early hours radio was the preserve of “creatures of the night”.

Yet here I am banging on about similar topics as my daytime colleagues – and the folk who call in sound much the same too.

It reflects, I suspect, a quiet revolution in British society – the arrival of a genuine 24 hour economy.

There have always been night shifts in factories, but now goods are on the move around the clock. If truckers are the backbone of the stereotypical Talksport audience, then I’m proud to say I get my share tuning in.

Then there are the folk who they deliver to – supermarkets, warehouses.

Until recently, there was a steady stream of responses from car workers working through the night, and cabbies are a staple, too.

Taxi drivers aren’t all the proverbial right wing “hang em and flog ‘em merchants” either – Tommy from Glasgow, a regular, is a white Muslim convert, Fred from London an old-school communist.

Then there are the writers, DJ’s, clubbers, cleaners, and transport workers – oiling the wheels of the capitalist machine. Plenty of expats listen on the net too in locations as diverse as Singapore, Cologne, Texas and Barcelona.

Throw in a few moon barkers, weirdos, and – yes – piss heads and you’ve got yourself around a quarter of a million listeners.

The only common thread is that they are mostly working class – or at least working people; let’s be honest, there aren’t many millionaires who choose to run their business empires at 3am. There’s a male bias, too, but that’s usually the case on talk radio.

None of this quite explains why I get a call from a woman called Suzanne in London at 3.30am the other detailing her experience of domestic violence with wit and experience; or the fluke of getting an email from the son of Israeli scientists who had developed a cure for a rare form of brain cancer.

These are the unexpected human stories you are lucky to stumble across whatever time you present a phone-in. And they remind you that as Jonathan Ross said recently, broadcasting is a privilege and not a right.

This week's Top Five call-in subjects:

  1. The miners strike - 25 years on
  2. Domestic violence - should Rihanna leave Chris Brown?
  3. £30million - should it go to Gaza relief or LDV?
  4. Possible release of Harry Roberts/Peter Sutcliffe/Ronnie Biggs
  5. DVD's for Gordon Brown

One that bombed:

Have major supermarkets got too much power?

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