The A List: Adland's favourite radio programme

They may pretend to be at the cutting edge but, when it comes to radio, A Listers tune their sets (analogue, no doubt) to BBC Radio 4. It is no contest, really. The advertising industry, unswerving as it is in advancing the cause of commercial media (especially commercial radio, suppressed beneath the brutal yoke of state-inspired broadcasting tyranny), actually listens to the wireless rather than radio.

No wonder the industry can't make radio commercials. It never listens to any. It talks all Xfm but it is tuned perpetually to BBC Radio 4. Comfortable old Radio 4, the last redoubt of public service broadcasting virtues, about as far from the gibbering inanities of disc jockeys and their mindlessly tinny pop music as you could ever hope to get.

It is the sound of lazy Sunday afternoons, of toasted tea cakes and honey, of warm beer and long shadows across county cricket grounds. It still carries ghostly echoes of the Home Service each evening as it broadcasts the chimes of Big Ben before the news.

You suspect the A Listers are still tuning in on long wave and, of course, in the case of Test Match Special, they are. This, you begin to realise, is the true face of the industry beneath its thin facade of slick metropolitan sophistication.

There are exceptions, most notably the four votes picked up by Pete and Geoff, two cheeky Northerners of Madchester vintage who front the Virgin Radio breakfast show. On the face of it, this is a surprising choice - they are not even regarded as being in the top three when it comes to music format breakfast shows. On the other hand, if you're a fan of the late 80s and its music, then you'll feel right at home.

The same goes for the high placing achieved by Jonathan Ross and his Saturday lunchtime show on Radio 2. The format is pure gorgonzola (celebrity interviews, phone-in competitions and oldie-but-goldie rocky pop) but Ross has a Peter Pan charm that is reassuring to an audience that has grown older with him.

As for the Radio 5 Live placing, this largely (you would suspect) reflects the number of football obsessives there are in the industry. Although it is also true that 5 Live's breakfast programming became something of a safe haven for Today fans driven to the end of their tether by the Radio 4 flagship's attempts over the past couple of years to go all macho and controversial.

Today kept pretending it had evolved into a politician-devouring Rottweiler.

Now, thankfully, it is learning to live with the fact it is just the mangy old Welsh sheepdog we've always known and loved.

But it comes as no surprise to find Today immovable at the top. The programme ticks all the right boxes. It's informative, obviously, albeit it in a relentlessly worthy manner. But, more than anything else, there is something terribly reassuring about Today and the familiar tones of John Humphrys, Edward Stourton et al. Don't leave home without it.

As for the rest, the one that really stands out is From Our Own Correspondent - a relentlessly earnest round of foreign dispatches patched together by Kate Adie. It's a brave soul who wants to wake up to Kate on a Sunday morning. Two of the others, Desert Island Discs and The Archers, are also Sunday standbys - and The Archers is probably the closest our A Listers get to admitting they know what a soap opera is.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the listening league table is not so much that Desert Island Discs makes an appearance but that it is so lowly placed. Formerly one of the most powerful brands in radio, the format is wasting away, clearly, even among its most likely target audience.

These, plus the two comedy shows, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue with Humphrey Lyttelton and Just a Minute with Nicholas Parsons, are all cut from more or less the same cloth.

This is radio to potter away a weekend to. Which the A Lister clearly does - or hopes to do.

As we stand on the verge of the digital audio broadcasting revolution and now have broadband access to stations the world over, it is rather sobering to realise that the people who run the industry still have their ears glued to Lyttelton. If sobering is quite the right word.

Warm beer, anyone?

Position Programme Votes

1 Today (Radio 4) 62

2 Radio 5 Live 35

3 I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (Radio 4) 26

4 Jonathan Ross (Radio 2) 17

5 The Archers (Radio 4) 15

6 Test March Special (Radio 4) 11

7 Just a Minute (Radio 4) 9

8 Pete and Geoff (Virgin) 4

9 From Our Own Correspondent (Radio 4) 3

10 Desert Island Discs (Radio 4) 2


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