'

Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 2/11/2004 You may remember that last week, I took a pop at Podcasting, the latest technology enabler that will let people throughout the world discover they're no good at broadcasting just like they did with Shoutcast. I concluded my diatribe by describing the effects of unleashing the hopeless multitudes on my ears as 'Hospital radio to go'.

Tuesday 2/11/2004
You may remember that last week, I took a pop at Podcasting, the latest technology enabler that will let people throughout the world discover they're no good at broadcasting just like they did with Shoutcast. I concluded my diatribe by describing the effects of unleashing the hopeless multitudes on my ears as 'Hospital radio to go'.

Oh dear. Hospital radio is not lightly dissed. Indeed, hospital radio has struck back, in the form of Nigel Dallard, secretary of the Hospital Broadcasting Association. In an email to me today, Nigel (who also enjoys working on steam railways) says:

"Have you had the misfortune to be in hospital recently, and thus the opportunity to listen to hospital radio? I sincerely hope not."

No, indeed. I have had the good fortune to avoid this opportunity.

"Most hospital radio stations these days are not run by bunches of 'wannabe DJs' or sad geeks, but by dedicated teams of individuals, from all sections of the community, committed to the cause of relieving the boredom that many patients endure when they find themselves unexpectedly in hospital. In addition to presenting the programmes, teams of volunteers -- every single person involved in hospital radio across the UK is an unpaid volunteer -- visit the wards to chat with patients, cheer them up and find out what they would like to hear."

A very good thing, But you can see the comedy potential here -- it's not always the lot of those who want to relieve boredom to exactly correspond with those who want that boredom relieved.

"Most of us have no ambition to go on and become the next Terry Wogan or Chris Moyles -- although many of those in the radio (and TV) industry have previously been involved with Hospital Radio, and a number still support us as Patron (Terry Wogan) or Ambassadors (e.g. Ken Bruce) of our national association."

Also a good thing. Speaking as a man whose reaction to Chris Moyles is probably categorisable as a medical condition in itself, I doubt any hospital-grade malady I might contract would be much improved by such an encounter.

"Many hospital radio stations have as much, if not more, IT infrastructure than the smaller commercial stations -- and rely on computers to play out specially prepared pre-recorded music and programmes during the 20 hours a day that the volunteers are unable to be in the studios live. Our aim is to sound just as professional as any other station on the dial -- just because we're unpaid does not mean that we're amateurs."

Technically speaking… oh, never mind. Carry on.

" Many patients don't even have to listen to us via those dreadful plastic tubes today either -- "

I think you'll find they're the doctors… ah, I see what you mean. Sorry.

"many hospitals have been equipped with mini cable-TV systems providing TV, radio, telephone and Internet access to every bedside, whilst other stations broadcast via low-powered AM or FM transmitters. Every year, the best of hospital radio talent -- and there's plenty of it -- is showcased at the National Hospital Radio Awards. You can find out more -- and listen to the winning entries online at www.hbauk.com."

And I can only suggest Diary readers repair there at once to check it out for themselves.

"I regularly read your columns on ZDNet. I find them both amusing and informative. Unfortunately, on this occasion, and for seemingly no good reason, you have disparaged many tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers. Please think twice before you hit 'send' next time."

Well, I did it because it was a cheap jibe at an easy target. It's not easy writing this stuff, you know, especially when it's Friday afternoon and every else has gone to the pub. [Everyone else apart from the editor waiting for this - Ed ] Apologies, and I promise never to take the mickey out of hospital radio again. I'll stick with the radio hams…