Why the podcast is the perfect antidote to Brexit politics

The New European podcast team, Steve Anglesey, left, Geraldine Scott, and Richard Porritt. Picture:

The New European podcast team, Steve Anglesey, left, Geraldine Scott, and Richard Porritt. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

The New European's podcast host STEVE ANGLESEY on why Brexit has provided perfect fuel for the format.

A few months back, in the middle of a Twitter conversation about an article for The New European, I found myself telling the fine comedy writer and actor David Schneider how weird it was to be part of a popular product which depended for its existence on the ongoing mismanagement of the raging dumpster fire we have all been watching since the end of June 2016. "You are the Brexit dividend," he wrote back.

None of it compensates for the miseries our national nightmare has ushered in, but just as Mrs Thatcher's rule inspired a wave of creative protest in the early 1980s, some very fine things have emerged from the rubble - the naive art of Magda Archer, the last (and, one suspects, the next) Stewart Lee show and the street stunts of Led By Donkeys, to name a few, as well as your weekly TNE and its successful website.

One sector undoubtedly experiencing the fabled Brexit bounce is the podcast. Six million Britons now listen to one at least once a week, up from 3.8 million in 2016, and while news and politics still rank behind comedy, music, television and film in terms of the most listened-to categories, events since the referendum have helped push current affairs up the charts.

That's one reason why this Saturday, October 5, The New European's own podcast will appear as part of Podcast Live: Politics, a day-long festival being held at Friends Meeting House opposite London's Euston station.

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Co-host Richard Porritt and I will be joined by TNE columnists Bonnie Greer and James Ball for an hour's Brexit discussion and reader questions; if you're easily bribeable we'll also have free (and very rare) TNE badges to give away.

Though Brexitcast and Remainiacs, two of the genre's big guns, are not represented at Podcast Live: Politics, there is plenty of other good stuff to choose from, including pods from Sky's Sophy Ridge, The New Statesman's Anoosh Chakelian and Stephen Bush, former Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith and Conservative pundit Iain Dale as well as - a personal favourite - FFS, Another Brexit Podcast from young People's Vote campaigners Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson and Jason Arthur.

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The other side of the argument is represented by alt-right blogger James Delingpole, the Daily Telegraph's Christopher 'Chopper' Hope and tiresome controversialist Brendan O'Neill interviewing tiresome controversialist Rod Liddle in the biggest "you've got another five seconds, say something outrageous" exercise since the Sex Pistols met Bill Grundy.

The recent podcast boom has unquestionably been fuelled by technology. Launching a podcast was a thankless task before 4G and the Apple podcast app arrived in 2012 (I know; I launched one with the former footballer Robbie Savage - I wonder whatever happened to him? - in 2010, to mass indifference).

But then Apple's podcast app became default on iPhones in 2014, visibility on Spotify ramped up last year and Google's recent moves to include podcasts in its search results is predicted to double consumption within the next five years. This might even be a conservative estimate when you consider the impact of auto manufacturers beginning to include podcast apps on in-car entertainment screens.

Yet none of this would matter were there not something irresistible about the format itself - the way speech stuff you want to listen to is available on-demand as you commute; the way discussions flow for far longer than, say, a snippet on Radio 4's Today; the way hosts and guests seem to relax far more than they would on buttoned-up programmed radio; the way every conceivable niche has its pod (currently queued on my device are podcasts about the Tory conference, presenter gaffes on Talksport, the crime writer Ed McBain, gambling on American football, presidential scandals and the dreadful 1982 movie Cannonball Run II.

It may be that, in an era of fake news, the trust and familiarity a good podcast builds with its audience is particularly important. It may also be that the languid, rolling style of most podcasts provides a welcome antidote to the 140-character screeching of social media and the increasingly caffeinated and fractious output of TV political news.

Or it may just be that millions of podcast listeners out there follow the example of my partner, who lives 120 miles away. I was flattered when she told me she had become an avid listener of the TNE podcast, slightly less so when she revealed that in my absences "I use it to get off to sleep".

- Podcast Live: Politics is at Friends Meeting House from 10am-5pm this Saturday, October 5. Tickets are £32.50 (all-day) or £13.50 TNE show only). The live TNE podcast starts at 2.30pm. Book your tickets at podcastlive.com

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