Slow radio, easy listening and the ethics of care

Lacey, Kate (2023) Slow radio, easy listening and the ethics of care. In: The Listening Biennial Reader. The Listening Biennial, pp. 95-116. ISBN 9783982316673

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The BBC is just one major broadcaster that has in recent years begun highlighting ‘slow radio’, with broadcasts of immersive sound walks, nature recordings and audio close-ups of nostalgic, meditative or restorative sounds, or by extended long-form or ‘free-form’ features. These are promoted as ‘an antidote to today’s frenzied world’, a chance ‘to step back from the busy hurly-burly of life’. The circulation of sounds described as mindful, relaxing, or serene has only garnered pace with the pandemic. This chapter aims to explore how listening figures in these experiments in ‘slow radio’ and what that might tell us about the ethics of care in broadcast communication.

Different modes of listening – distracted or focused, indiscriminate or discerning – have been used as markers of distinction throughout radio history. This is at play in the way ‘slow radio’ is distinguished from ‘easy listening radio’, for example, though they share a rhetoric about care for the listener in providing an acoustic balm for the trials of modern living.

Slow radio is commonly framed in terms of an ethics of care for the self, a defensive and privatised response to the ‘malign velocities’ (Noys, 2014) of contemporary life. But there are also signs of a participatory ethic of care in relation to creative practitioners, in terms of “liberating” producers from the shackles of a schedule. The most radical experiments in slow radio, framed explicitly as subversive, work with a more politicised or public ethic of care.

This chapter addresses questions about the ethics and aesthetics of broadcast radio and whether there is something specific in these discourses about slow radio about the ethics of the ear.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
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Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2022 11:42
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2023 08:59

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