Radio makes us happier than TV – so cut out those webcams

imageTo quote the song from which Lady Gaga took her name: radio – someone still loves you. Lots of people, in fact. A study has found that listening to the radio boosts our happiness by 100 per cent, and our energy levels by 300 per cent, much greater increases than we get from watching TV or surfing the web. Those of us in Team Marconi rather than Team Logie Baird won’t be surprised by this.

First the pictures are better. Romping through the fields of your own imagination is much more uplifting than being told exactly how a scene or a character looks. And second (this is why radio will always be such a significant factor in most people’s day-to-day lives) – you can do other things while you’re listening to it. Consuming TV and the internet are sedentary activities.

Radio, on the other hand, can be listened to while changing a nappy, slicing a courgette, hoovering the stairs or (if you’re particularly talented) all three at the same time. A stimulating programme makes you quicker at domestic tasks, therefore more productive, therefore happier and more energetic. I hate ironing – yet if I do it to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Drive programme it becomes bearable. Better still do it to a music station: you can iron in time to the beat.

There are exceptions to radio’s power, of course. The five most depressing words in the English language are “and now – You and Yours”. But mostly we cherish the medium. Which is why the rise of the webcam must be halted. Any radio programme using one becomes, in effect, a television programme – and that alters the nature of the content. The presenter is no longer concerned exclusively with what they’re saying – part of their attention is focused on how they look. I know from experience that a webcam detracts from that, makes you conscious that people can see as well as hear you. Appearing on a radio programme without one allows you to devote all your concentration to what you’re saying (and yes, to be childish too – presenters and I have sometimes flicked the Vs at irritating callers). Switch that tiny camera on, though, and your relationship with the listener changes. Walter Bagehot said that we must not let daylight in on the magic of monarchy. Nor should we let webcams in on the magic of radio.

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