Thursday, June 11, 2009

Americana - new programme on BBC Radio 4

Americana - a new half-hour magazine show about America on BBC radio 4 From coast to coast, Matt Frei presents an insider guide to the people and the stories shaping America today

The programme started on May 31st but (silly me) I forgot all about it and missed the first two episodes so I caught up by listening to the first two shows via BBC iPlayer.

The first programme started with a discussion with Amy Dickinson, an "agony aunt" (like Dear Abby) called "Ask Amy", a popular advice columnist. Amy said the glass is still half-full in the USA. The materialistic society is changing and people are looking for ways to find time to spend with their family that doesn't cost money.

The second part of the programme was about former US troops who, having tortured prisoners, suffer with guilt and post traumatic stress disorder. It's very sad and disturbing to listen to the report told by a psychiatrist.

The last story in the first programme was about New Orleans which still has a shockingly high murder rate ("some things never change") but it boasts some of the lowest unemployment figures in the USA. New companies are being encouraged to start up in New Orleans with tax incentives from the Louisiana state government and the availability of federal funds and through Trumpet ("...connecting businesses to opportunities").

The second programme (broadcast on June 7th) mentions the celebration of the unveiling of the statue of Ronald Reagan in Washington D.C. Matt Frei discusses the Republican party with two young Repubicans.

The next report is about Greensburg, Kansas which was flattened by a major tornado in 2007, and their decision to rebuild the community based on an eco-friendly design.

The final story is about Kareem Salama, a Muslim country singer. He was born and raised in Ponca City, a small town in Oklahoma, but his parents were born and raised in Egypt.

After listening to the first two episodes, I have mixed feelings about the show. I think it has potential to be a very interesting series but I wonder if most of the stories will really be of any interest to British listeners.

I enjoyed it but I think the subject matter is more likely to appeal to Americans more than Brits. Perhaps, I'm wrong though.

If you listened to the series so far, what are your thoughts about it?

Matt Frei presents Americana every Sunday evening at 7.15pm on Radio 4


  1. I listened to both of them but was interrupted by phone calls!
    I think that it'll be a series where some stories are more interesting than others, but it's certainly a programme that is worth listening to. xx

  2. That's the problem with these radio programme's - you need a half-hour of uninterrupted time. The shows are still available to listen to via BBC iPlayer if you want to listen to them again, Flighty.

    I think you're right - some of the stories are more interesting than others.

  3. I hope you are wrong and I hope they provide a balance of good stories to bad. America could use some good press but we all know that negativity sells. I haven't heard this on Radio 4 yet so I'll be sure to listen out for it.

  4. Melissa, I hope the series will provide a balance of good stories to bad. I wonder though if a lot of people were put off by the whole series after listening to the story in the first episode about the anguish suffered by US troops who had tortured prisoners. Yes, it's a factual story but it's so depressing.

    If you do listen, let me know what you think of the series.

  5. I thought it was a bit patchy, but I hope it begins to throw some light on the aspects of American life that might be a bit more mundane but are more representative of most people's lives. But I suppose that stuff doesn't sell.

    I used to love the old "letter from America", more for Alistair Cooke's style than the content.

    Peter Bond

  6. Hello Peter. I agree, it was a bit patchy. It will be interesting to see what other stories will be chosen for the remaining episodes.

    I think Americana is meant to be similar to Letter From America.