Radio Times

Well, as hoped, a hot bath and a cheap Nurofen capsule did the trick and after a very sound night’s sleep I am feeling fairly good today already. I’m glad I didn’t go downhill because otherwise I would have missed a meeting in Mannheim which went very well and will help our little firm this summer. I drove up to Mannheim and back – it’s only a little bit more than an hour and as the journey wasn’t long enough for me to really concentrate on listening to a podcast, I listened to the radio.

The quality of German radio stretches over quite a wide spectrum – from pretty crap and just plain excruciating. I usually listen to SWR1, whereas my kids want to listen to SWR3. SWR means Süd West Rundfunk (Southwest Radio) and is the state-owned, paid for by licence-fee regional station. Each state has it’s own collection of radio stations with a similar nomenclature system. It starts with the initials of the radio station and then a number which indicates what you can expect to find there. So SWR 1 is for the middle-age listener (sort of radio 2ish easy listening), then SWR 3 (chart music) and SWR 4 (unbearably cheesy German “Volksmusik”). There are quite a few independent stations in between and a couple of national news stations. When I drive up near Frankfurt I can pick up “AFM The Eagle” which is the US Forces station (there are several major US bases in Germany). A strange mix of slick US Network shows and amateurish links imploring you to visit a cake sale at the local barracks.

What’s really missing is something like Radio 4. The BBC may be a bloated self-serving mess but at least they keep Radio 4 going. My Mum has Radio 4 on at home a lot and I often find myself half-listening and then suddenly stopping and think “ooh, that sounds interesting” as I dangle a teabag over the bin. It’s like having a very interesting but not particularly pushy friend around. There’s no equivalent in Germany I’m afraid and I think that’s a great shame.

So I am left with SWR1 – which I am going to moan about too. They do occasionally surprise you by playing some non-mainstream stuff and in November there are a couple of interesting weeks when they play the listeners’ top 1000. I like that because most listeners are my age. But they do pad their programming out with lots of hits of yesteryear that really never need to be heard again. A cynical friend and I have a running list of the 5 worst songs on SWR1. These are bland-ish songs often from the 80s which were probably only ever hits because an A ‘n’ R man had a giant budget. Certainly not on merit. Our current number one is “We built this city” by Starship.

At least the music gets broken up by certain “comedy” characters and funny links every now and then. Sometimes, but not very often, they really are funny too. Unfortunately they can’t resist ending each comedy bit with a little jingle which says “SWR macht Spass” – (SWR is fun!). I wish they wouldn’t but I suppose they have to clearly flag up the jokes because lots of listeners would miss them otherwise. It’s such a shame because I think Germany has a better sense of humour than it’s given credit for. But you’re not going to find it on the radio.

Ho hum, but still I managed to listen to a couple of hours of it today. The worst song was Tina Turner’s Private Dancer so I suppose it could have been worse. I know it could have been worse because every now and then I switched to the “Kids’ station” SWR3. That’s the same crap but with “chart music” (ie. some schoolkids have downloaded some casting show remix a dozen times). So I’ll stick with SWR1 in the hope that they will play Highway to Hell next time I’m off to a meeting (which really does happen every now and then).

Bis morgen!


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