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Climate change at Radio National

By Valerie Yule - posted Friday, 12 August 2011

The Australian Broadcasting Commission's Radio National stands accused of left or right bias by people who obviously do not listen comprehensively. There is a serious bias, however, and that is increasing loss of intelligent programming.

Originally Radio National, the national flagship of Australian radio, was designed to raise the intelligence of the nation, beginning with the children and teenagers. Now intentionally or not, it is designed to reduce the intelligence of the nation.

Once Radio National was upmarket. It had programs for children and teenagers so they were likely to graduate to the 'thinking' programs as they grew up. It had programs for ordinary people that raised the standard for them including panel-games, quizzes, practical information for homemakers and gardeners - to introduce them to the station so that they were likely to continue to listen to the programs of national importance. Once it had a wider range of music than it has now, although now it has nine music programs plus pieces of music that are played about hourly. Some programs today are non-sequential 'collages' of voices and music, which prevent thoughtful following, but are fun no doubt to make and have a modernist flavour.


Radio National has now about 2% of the listening audience, mostly over fifty. This older audience I think, dislikes much of the music, the stream-of-consciousness, the longer stings, and over-use of promos, although listener surveys (when are they?) may disprove my opinion.

For those who do not yet listen to Radio National, and may have untested prejudices, here are the facts about its programs. You yourself can find out the bias on each one.

Programs cover 22 categories - arts, books, business, community, design, education, environment, family, health, history, indigenous, law, media, music, philosophy, political, religion, rural, science, sport and war.

There are 62 programs, many repeated in the night hours, plus 5-8 minutes of News, every hour. .

Eight are music programs - Into the Music, Music Deli, Night Air Live, Night Air, Quiet Space, Rhythm Divine, Sound Quality, Story of Pop

Eight are political programs - a.m, Asia Pacific, Background Briefing, Breakfast, Correspondents' Report, Hindsight, p.m, World Today


Eight are political and social – Australia Talks, Big Ideas, Boyar Lectures, Classic Late Night Live, Counterpoint, Late Night live, National Interest, Saturday Extra

Twenty-six are specialty programs –All in the mind (Psychology), Artworks (Art), Away (Indigenous), Book Show, Bush Telegraph (Country), By Design (Design), Comedy, Country Breakfast (Country), Elsewhere (Travel), Encounter (Religion), First Person (Biography), Future Tense (Future), Health report, Law report, Life Matters, Lingua Franca (Language), Movie Time, New Dimensions (Environmental), Ockham's Razor (Science), Philosophers Zone, Poetica, Rear Vision (History), Edpol (Education)], Science Show, Spirit of Things (Religion), Verbatim (Biographical).

Nine are mixed content, sometimes very mixed - Airplay, Daily Planet, Garrison Keilor's Radio Show, Playing the 20th Century, Replay, RN Shuffle, The Lonely Hearts Club, This American Life, Weekend Planet.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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