World at One (Radio4)

A revamped show rambles from Nick Clegg to culture.

A bewildering combination of overstuffed and languid, the new, extended World at One (weekdays, 1pm) finally arrived on Monday 7 November, festooned and garlanded with interviews with artists and business gurus. The producers couldn't have fitted one more bum on the plush. For weeks, the BBC listener blogs have been full of very specific grumbles, ranging from the reasonable ("Extending the news at 1pm by 15 minutes will just lead to the BBC presenters interviewing for longer. In other words, waffle") to those missing the point ("I don't understand the obsession with news, news, news").

Listeners fearing the loss of the no-nonsense tone the programme used to foster doubtless started to sweat during Martha Kearney's rambling intro: "One of the most powerful monsters in Greek mythology was the multi-headed Hydra, spouting poisonous breath from all its mouths. Slice off one head and two more appear! With no sign of a Heracles in sight, the division in the eurozone is spreading . . ." Then Robert Peston down the line, even more than usually mad and getting his full stops in the wrong places: "And I think the thing which is causing most. Anxiety to the world's leaders is . . ."

Nick Clegg next, live in the studio. Martha: "Goodness, what's going on here?" Clegg: "What my own view is is that what we're seeing haltingly is is is . . . Let me just finish the thought, Martha." Followed by a most peculiar fake interview with an actor pretending to be a whistleblowing immigration officer at a UK airport ("I hated it [sigh]"). At this point Martha trailed Brain of Brains, a radio quiz show for geniuses - and then interviewed Bill Gates. The timing of the trail was not lost on listeners, nor possibly Clegg, whom one pictured listening to this in the lift on the way out of Portland Place, a bit depressed.) Now an interview with Ai Weiwei (listener blog: "There was an ominous comment on World at One they would be spending the time on coverage of culture and the arts." Oops). Finally, comments from a post-riots teenager on the Pembury Estate in Hackney. Michael Buchanan: "What do you do for money?" Teenager: "I do my personal stuff, like, but I don't want to talk about it." And that, folks, is the world at 1.45. Pass me a smoke!

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 14 November 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The NHS 1948-2011, so what comes next?