Radio - Rachel Cooke

Welcome to the celebrity presenter: youth, fame, good looks - and a voice like a cabbie on speed

Above all else, BBC Radio and most of the commercial stations long to be: a) interactive and b) accessible. A desire to be the former has led to the hateful rise of phone-ins, to which I will return in a future column. (How banal they are, though: it cannot be long, surely, before listeners of Radio 5 are asked to call Victoria Derbyshire to let her know what they think of the day's weather.) A desire to be the latter has led often to presenters being chosen not because their voice is naturally easy on the ear, but because they are famous in some other sphere - television, usually - or because they have a regional accent. The old joke used to be that someone had "a good face for radio", meaning that the person in question was ugly or odd-looking, but had cadences to die for. Radio presenters were anonymous, except when they opened their mouths to speak. No longer. Increasingly, the schedules are littered with people whose faces I know very well, but whose voices I simply cannot bear.

Early this month on Radio 2, we had The Marlon Brando Story (4 October) as told by a very sibilant Val Kilmer. No doubt Radio 2 bosses think it a great coup, persuading a film star to present a show, but the problem is that such men are incapable of fading into the background: even the most quotidian of sentences must be pronounced in the manner of a Hollywood trailer, all hammy pauses and booming emphases. The previous week, Johnny Depp had narrated The James Dean Story in similar fashion, intoning like Moses just down from the holy mountain. This is what you get when you pay not for a voice, or a performance, but for a name. Ploughing this particular furrow over and over will lead to something truly horrifying. Barbara Windsor presents The Diana Dors Story, anyone?

Meanwhile, on Radio 4, Sir Harold Evans is still trying to fill Alistair Cooke's shoes (A Point of View, Fridays, 8.50pm; repeated Sundays). I was never - whisper it softly - Cooke's biggest fan, but Evans makes me long for him. It isn't that his prose is not immaculate, nor that his ideas are not clever. Again, it is his voice that is the problem. I expect the BBC hoped that Evans's Lancastrian rumble, bolstered by the former newspaper editor now referring to himself as a "historian", would make him a man of the people in the manner of, say, A J P Taylor. If so, it was wrong. The first sentence in each programme is fantastic, but thereafter your eyes begin to feel distinctly heavy. Evans, I'm afraid, has a good face not for radio, but for dust jackets and glossy magazines.

Still, he is a minor irritant compared to some. Thinking about the degradation of the idea that voice matters, I decided to compile a top five of the regular presenters I find most annoying, in the hope that I will not have to bore you with my obsessional hatred in the future. Here, in reverse order, they are. At five, Ian McMillan, a poet whose "ee-bah-gum-ecky-thump" tones invade Radios 2 and 4 like bindweed in an allotment. At four, Graeme Le Saux on 5 Live. The most boring ex-footballer-turned-commentator yet. At three, with apologies to those who do not live in London, Peter Young on Smooth FM. Like a cabbie on speed: UNENDURABLE. At two, Richard Bacon on Capital FM. Less rambling than he was on 5 Live, but still inept. And at number one? My teeth are grinding even as I write. Yes, it's Anita Anand on 5 Live. Sorry, but I may have to return to Anand - the princess of pert - at some other time. She has ruined bathtimes for me and, for this reason, deserves a proper drubbing.