Is this the worst radio station in the world?

WGN beams out from Chicago – but is at as terrible as some people claim?

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Ever since the American talk-radio pioneer and National Radio Hall of Fame inductee Steve Dahl called WGN in Chicago “like, the worst radio station ever” in a 2014 podcast, I’ve tuned in occasionally. “As bad as it was when I got into town in 1978,” Dahl concluded, particularly objecting to a “f***ing dips**t” WGN employed as a morning-show presenter. “The world’s worst afternoon show”, he gritted on, is hosted by Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder (“time to dial up the hatred”).

To be fair, the pair have always sounded sweetly innocuous to me – although their show in anticipation of World Naked Gardening Day was stunningly bootless. Dull recommendations included: “flowers will last a lot longer if the plant is kept well ­watered”. How best to negotiate the garden centre, with its bewildering avenues of in-leaning shrubs? “What’s a really good idea,” Bill advised, “is to consider the colour of your house.”

After a while, the duo welcomed a bouncy Stacey from Proven Winners plants (Wendy: “You can tell a Proven Winners plant because of the large container with ‘Proven Winners’ on it”), who was delighted to stress that Saturday was indeed World Naked Gardening Day, and all sorts of ­naked-type things were happening in Chicago! “I’m not partaking,” Wendy confirmed, shutting off all roads to compromise. “Colour is something . . . you just pick what you like, right?”

Stupefied, I switched to BBC Radio Norfolk’s Garden Party, a show which always seems to operate with a hearteningly near-hysterical buzz, and with such frequent mention of a whole network of lovers and cousins and grass-stained friends of godchildren, all out picking chickweed in the forest, that it begins to feel positively Chekhovian. And sure enough, here was someone claiming, “my husband’s great-uncle used to rest his bare buttocks on the earth” when deciding if it was the right time to plant potatoes. Erica in Little Snoring then texted to say that she was, that very moment, throwing caution to the wind and planting a kiwi fruit (any tips?), followed by a heartfelt appeal to Norfolk’s slug population: “The radish feast must end.” Fair play. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 12 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The anti-Trump

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