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SOS

Radio is my favourite broadcast medium – perhaps an old-fashioned concept in these digital days.

But there are some subjects that it does far better than tv or film.

Take a programme I heard a couple of days ago on BBC Radio 4 presented by one of my favourite radio broadcasters Eddie Mair.

It was about the SOS Message Service, which readers of a certain age in the UK will remember from its sombre tone.

The programme description on the BBC iPlayer captures its essence – ‘Could Mr and Mrs Snodgrass, believed to be travelling in the Cotswolds, please ring this hospital where their Auntie is dangerously ill.’

These were urgent messages broadcast to alert someone away from home or on holiday that a relative or loved one was close to death.

Via his Radio Times column, Mair had mused whether people had any personal experiences of these SOS messages.

Of course, they did, and the programme ‘And Now An Urgent SOS Message’ was the result.

Partly because the service is so associated with radio and partly because its heyday predates the digital age of mobile phones and tablet computers, the programme was great radio.

Informative, moving, entertaining – all conveyed by a series of human voices telling their stories.

I hope you enjoy its 38 minutes as much as I did.

‘And Now an Urgent SOS Message’ – BBC iPlayer

Musically there’s an obvious song to bring you at this point, but I warn you that the director of Abba’s video had just been on a visual effects course in 1975 and watching it will give you an headache.

Rihanna’s take on the subject, however, is from a different era altogether.

Abba – SOS

Rihanna – SOS

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