I am starting to feel that I am becoming addicted to review broadcasts and reading reviews in newspapers. The addiction includes watching my favourite programme, The Culture Show and making sure Newsnight Review has been recorded on Sky + to watch later in the week. My keenness for reviews also includes listening to Radio Four’s Front Row and Saturday Review, as well as the wonderful Kermode and Mayo on Radio Five Live. Did video kill off radio? My appetite for review watching, listening and reading has been fuelled by the easy accessibility of these outputs in the digital age. As radio broadcasts are so easily accessible through the iPlayer and podcasts, I am now finding that I probably listen to more radio than I watch television. This is because it is possible to listen while writing at the computer or when I’m travelling on trains, whereas television means I have to be in a certain place in my house. I could watch television on my iPlayer as well I know, but it’s not as easy to be working on the computer at the same time. Being part of the radio audience is much easier than it was and is a massive move forward from when you needed to be near a radio and spent ages moving a wire at the back around to get as signal. Indeed, radio lagged behind television which became part of the video recording age, whereas you had to be there if you wanted to record anything on your cassette recorder.
As well as easy access to broadcast, in the age of Web 2.0 technologies there are also a slew of blogs to read and I am keen not to miss any theatre reviews, so I can access them al through my Google Reader. I lap up Michael Billington, Mark Shenton, and Charles Spencer, as well as the rest of the well established theatre reviewers. However, I also enjoy looking at the blogs, such as the wonderfully engaging West End Whingers, Virtual Scholars and it’s comment on culture, and Peter Kirwin’s meticulous Bardathon. What I think are some of the best blogs are accessible from this blog through the right hand side column. I used to put the Press Night dates in my diary and then try and find space in my day to go out and buy the newspapers. This of course was very risky. If the review wasn’t in that day’s edition, it was a waste of time, but if I forget to buy them or couldn’t find the time to go to the nearest newsagent then I missed them altogether. I suppose I do read the adverts and I must admit it was a video advert on a newspaper site which seduced me into buying tickets for the wonderful Priscilla. I have been tempted to go to see a production because of a good review. My visit to As You Like It at the Curve at Leicester was down to the fact that I read the reviews and felt I must go and see another Tim Supple production. I still buy newspapers, particularly on a Sunday. I don’t buy less, but the digital age means I do read more than I did. The fact that the television and radio is available in a digital form means that I can consume them when it suits me. I am unlikely to listen and watch more than once, which would be the case if I had planned to tune in to a one off broadcast.
What appeals to me about all this? Accessing all these reviews and conversations about culture makes me think and shape my own views. I can choose to be influenced or not. I like hearing different opinions. I enjoy being annoyed about what is said and the approach taken, and it’s like having a dialogue with someone about things I’ve seen. I am introduced to art, film, theatre and literature, that I might not have considered. The digital age is providing me with choice and that can only be a good thing. It feels like the outputs are free, but the engagement in the reviewing world leads to me being a consumer somewhere, whether it is in buying theatre tickets, books or becoming a friend of an art galley so I can view exhibitions. It’s not free really, as ther is a cost is in the broadband subscription, the Sky + box or the mobile phone network. It’s also useful to have the space in my own blog to reflect and respond to what I have seen in my own language. It is my view that the digital age complements cultural outputs and is a really positive way forward. I would say that digital recording has breathed new life into radio rather than determined it’s death. The newspaper reivews still lead readers to the adverts if they are read on line and the blogs add another layer of opinion to those traditional review outputs.