Broadcasting House is Radio 4’s often surprising, always intelligent, but usually accessible news review on Sunday Mornings. Listened In checked out twenty minutes dominated by two human tragedies, at home and abroad.

Listened In is 2ZY’s air-check blog. Every week, we listen to a random 20 minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

Paddy O’Connell (Pic: BBC)

WHO  Paddy O’Connell

WHAT BBC Radio 4

WHEN  16 September 2012


Two Way with Jonathan Beale from Kabul on NATO soldier attacks.

Perfectly measured update on the attacks. Two British soldiers were killed by a man wearing the uniform of the Afghan police. Description of the dangerous province where the killings took place. “What seems to have happened, and I’ve had this confirmed by two sources, …” is the kind of in-line that drips credibility. The man in uniform feigned injury. Troops came to his aid, and while they were doing that, he opened fire, killing them both.

Paddy comes back with the great question/statement: “Away from that statistic, is the question of trust, eroded with each new report.” Jonathan follows up with what is being done to improve security. Training the security forces “.. is NATO’s ticket out.” In one training base in Kabul, every month they’re training 7,000 new members of the Afghan army. And the vetting so far has largely been on the word of tribal elders.


Paddy transitions between stories. “We’ll return to events back home today …” and preparations for the Anfield meeting of  relatives of the Hillsborough 96. Summarises the Hillsborough news of the week, adding that “the Prime Minister apologised for the “double injustice of football fans being blamed for their own deaths.” Michael Mansfield QC is on the phone and discusses the legal way forward for those families. Responsibility has been ‘barely touched upon,’ he says. The state is revealed to have taken part in a form of institutional cover-up, suggests Paddy.


But this segment really opens up when the show gives thirteen minutes to a simple interview. Paddy talks to Tony Edwards, the ambulance driver who drove onto the pitch only to find none of his colleagues were allowed to follow his lead. He is a listener to the programme, and this is the last interview about Hillsborough he says he’ll give. A chilling segment of commentary from that terrible afternoon sets up the conversation.

After being waved onto the pitch, “the assistant chief ambulance officer got cross. He said he didn’t give a – well, I can’t say the word on radio – he was telling us not to go on the pitch … but we could see there were … err, you know, one in particular young person on a billboard being carried by other people.”

Simply, softly, from Paddy. “In fact, you were overwhelmed,” is a great example of a respectful, simple question that drives the story forward.

Tony talks of how he never took the line of the ambulance service, or the Taylor enquiry, “and now when you say it, people believe you … there was no difficulty getting onto the pitch … They abandoned me. They started a rescue operation … absolutely the right thing to do. What was wrong was to send me onto the pitch without any support.”

Another brilliant Paddy interjection. “What you mean is your vehicle began to be piled with bodies. That’s effectively what you’re telling me?”

The horror of the afternoon is evident in the conversation, without any kind of glorification. But there is also hope. This is a man on the periphery of this tragedy – he lost nobody close to him – but it changed his life forever. He moved to Bute to be away from the post-traumatic stress of that afternoon. “I lost some of my marbles. But I didn’t lose a loved one … For the first time in 23 years, I can see there’s an end to this. For the first time … nobody can say weren’t they all drunk, or weren’t they all fighting because that has been totally dismissed.”

Paddy: You wanted to make allegations of a cover up. And now the whole world sees there was a cover-up. Tony’s voice trembles as he remembers. “The rescue effort was started. But then the rescue efforts was stopped. Somebody took the decision to stop that.”

Great speech radio sounds easy. It rarely is. This was an unusual twenty-minute segment. This programme usually combines plenty of wit with the stories that need to be told. (I actually listened longer, and it returned later on). But its other signature is treatment. So many other programmes would have gone for a victim’s family member. But here, clearly, the producer thought there was merit in hearing the experience of someone at one remove, whose life has been irrevocably changed by the horror of that afternoon. That production verve, alongside a presenter who knows exactly what, when and how to say the fewest required words to drive an interview forward make Broadcasting House a very special programme.
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