What traditional forms of radio still give you, though, is that element of surprise; you are much more likely to stumble across some unexpected treasure. Connelly’s book belongs to that serendipitous tradition. It is, in effect, an informal history of radio with only the lightest linear structure. You can more or less jump in at any point and find yourself in the middle of a memorable vignette... However, Connelly explores many neglected corners of the landscape too... Connelly is too much in love with radio to indulge in overt criticism...
The book's strength is also, perhaps, its weakness. Connelly writes very much from the heart and his book reflects his own interests entirely.
So sport equals football: there are two and a half chapters about the game and a single paragraph on Test Match Special.
There's nothing at all about the great quiz shows on Radio 4. Desert Island Discs and The Archers each get one or two brief mentions.
Maybe he feels that everything that is to be said about these shows has already been said. Or maybe he's saving them up for the next book.
But these are just niggles. Connelly is a ferociously entertaining writer and I'm guessing he knows it.
There are gaps in this evolutionary history. Connelly doesn’t seem to grasp why airtime for recorded music was restricted for so long. The powerful agreement between broadcasters, unions and copyright organisations was probably too complicated to explain. His account of radio comedy is skimpy. He’s too starry-eyed about his favourite broadcasters to ask hard questions...
Yet I forgave him everything when, at last, he got to Hilversum, where radio history stretches back to 1918. As he is guided round the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and the national broadcasting archives (more than 1m hours of material, films, television and radio, being added to all the time), he learns how early the urge to broadcast was, and how widespread. What was happening in Holland was happening simultaneously right across Europe — just like, in our time, the early days of internet pioneers.
Now a broadcaster in his own right and the author of a previous book on the shipping forecast, he proves to be an enthusiastic and entertaining guide to radio’s history, personalities and hallowed sites. His book is a heartfelt and funny celebration from the earliest broadcasts of musical performance ... to the origins of radio comedy... Connelly is especially good at evoking “the magic of the medium”, its uniquely immersive intimacy in comparison with TV.