Radio twittering

Be my Twitter friend if you want to know what I’m listening to on the radio.

I know I’m always going on about BBC Radio 4 here: ‘jewel in the crown’, ‘best speech radio in the world’, ‘liberal education in a box’ and all that. Forgive me but here I go again. The network is 40 years old this year but really much older. Radio 4 replaced The Home Service which itself replaced a bunch of earlier national and regional stations, one of which was 2LO, the first proper British radio station, launched by the fledgling BBC in 1922. So, when you tune into Radio 4 you’re really listening to 80-odd years of continuous British radio history – there are even several shows on the network that have been running for longer than 50 years.

Radio 4 and the BBC in general are funded from a licence fee, a gloriously anachronistic compulsory levy on every household with a TV that really annoys libertarians and free market ultras but seems, somehow, to make perfect sense to the British public. So we – those of us with TVs anyway – pay directly for the corporation’s output and that gives us certain rights over it. It’s ours. This is why I quite often rip a Real Media stream from and stick it up on my server without worrying about the tap on the door in the dawn. Although I probably shouldn’t, nobody’s going to stop me.

One thing I’ve always wanted to do, though, is find a way of reviewing and linking to radio progs in a slightly more spontaneous way than blogging them, which is a bit of a pain at the best of times. So now I’ve found it. I’m going to use Twitter – the brilliant hybrid of messaging and publishing that’s got the geeks’ thumbs twitching. I’ve been enjoying Twitter for a couple of weeks already – one of those genuinely fertile consumer tech innovations whose various parts have existed here and there for years but which really makes sense now that they’re all joined together.

I’ve created a Twitter account called LWB (Listen With Bowbrick) which I’m going to use exclusively for micro-reviews and, where available, links to Real Streams or web sites for radio shows I really enjoy. If you want to know what I’m listening to on the radio you just need to add me as a friend. Click here to do so (you’ll obviously need a free Twitter account).

The reason I like Twitter for this job is because, like I said, it’s spontaneous and you can do it from your mobile but also because it’s ephemeral. If I tell you that I’m listening to The World Tonight (which I am) then I can provide a link to the stream without worrying about the fact that it will overwritten by the next one in seven days (which is why I hoovered up all those Real streams in the first place).

I’m going to try, where I provide links, to make sure they go to stable pages in the BBC’s nifty programme directory – they look like this one and have a unique ID at the end of the URL. From there you should be able to learn about the show while getting to a Real Stream if it still exists. I’m kind of assuming that the go-ahead geeks at the Beeb will want to offer some kind of slightly more formal Beeb/Twitter mashup soon enough – like something, for instance, that will allow you to embed a short URL automatically or something that would work from a mobile (wouldn’t it be entirely cool if you could receive a tweet referencing a Radio 4 show on your mobile and then click to listen to it?).