The Big Issue : Edition 450
THEBIGISSUE24JAN--6FEB2014 29 culture police Fiona Scott-Norman ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BAKES; ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH BY MILES STANDISH ILL-FATED EXPERIMENTS WITH FM RADIO. Tuning Out For virtually more FSN, visit fonascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman. IT'S NOT THAT I'm prejudiced against FM radio. As such. It's just that I have never been able to listen to it. It's the ads. I tried for a while, when my good friend and ace broadcaster Kate Langbroek got the breakfast berth at Nova FM in Melbourne. I tried for minutes. But the constant interjection of brash, bleating promotions for this thing and that thing that I didn't want -- and certainly didn’t care to be shouted at about – acted as a highly efective aural electric fence. I just can't go there, particularly not at seven in the morning. The only commercial station I enjoy is Magic 1278, on the AM band. It's a Melbourne station, but I'm sure there's a 'golden oldies' equivalent in every state, with hits of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. It's adorable. Show- stopping numbers from Carousel and Show Boat, something cheeky from Bobby Darin, and ads for funeral plans, incontinence pads and small modern units now that you're rattling around in the family home on your own. What's not to like? There have been broadcasters who have succeeded in luring me to FM. Tony Martin, basically. I'll listen to anything he does. The man's a genius. But most FM programs? Pff. Let’s face it, when a radio presenter is in the news for acting like a cock, it's almost always someone from an FM station. Whether it's quizzing rape victims, suggesting Magda Szubanski would lose weight if she were in a concentration camp or encouraging people to marry naked for money -- it’s never anyone from the ABC pulling that kind of stuf, do you notice? I hate prank calls. I hate hearing people being humiliated or fooled. And I hate being sneered at. And then there's the casual misogyny and dusty racism that is so often part and parcel of FM humour. Gays? Still hilarious. Blondes? My sides are splitting. Indian taxi drivers? Can't breathe, I'm laughing too much. I choose not to live in that world. I watch, read and listen to the many broadcasters, authors and entertainers out there who have evolved beyond the schoolyard, and have interesting things to say. But mostly I have been blasé about FM radio. I am happy skipping between Radio National, News Radio and my local Melbourne indie station 3RRR. If others want to listen to Nickelback and ring in to share their story about how they got locked out of the house in their underwear, more power to their elbow. As Joel Grey says in the movie Cabaret: "Leben und leben lassen. Live and let live." But then, gentle reader, I bought a new car. It's a 2002 Mini Cooper. It is in brilliant nick -- red with white stripes -- and perfect in every way. Except for the discovery, once I got it home, that the AM band on the radio doesn't work. Let me repeat that. The AM BAND DOESN'T WORK. The previous owner, who is a doll, hadn't noticed, because it was his second car driven for the fun of it on weekends, and he only ever listened to Fox. I cannot tell you how my quality of life has plummeted. For the past three months I've been attempting to listen to FM radio. Getting the radio fxed, obviously, is on my New Year's list, but Minis, now manufactured by BMW, are expensive to fddle with. The radio is part of the car's infrastructure, and I've been baulking at the cost of repair or replacement. I now believe it's probably worth selling a kidney. I was steeled for most of it. The ads, the inanity, the auto-tuned excuses for music. What I wasn't prepared for was the absence of news. When you find yourself switching to Triple J at midday because you know there'll be a bulletin, even if it's yoof-oriented and ironic, you know it's slim pickings on the FM news front. News-wise, the FM band is practically a desert, with nothing on the horizon beyond 'who gives a fat rat's ring'. It is entirely possible to spend your days utterly oblivious. No information, no challenge and no indication that anything is happening in the world beyond your bubble of 'hits'n'memories' or 'non-stop raise the roof party'. No wonder some people don't think there are any issues. They don't hear about them. I always thought a post-ABC world would be kinda right-wing. It won't be. It will be like the FM band. A giant marshmallow, where nothing gets in or out, and no one can breathe.