Looking for good UK-biased podcasts.
October 5, 2011 5:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for podcasts that are British or European, to counterbalance the overwhelmingly American coverage I receive of my areas of interest. Can anybody recommend some good English language offerings to match the criteria under the fold?

I subscribed to a lot of podcasts when I was living in the US, but now that I am in the UK I find that too much of what I'm listening to is no longer relevant.

I am mostly familiar with offerings from the Guardian and BBC; what am I missing from other producers?

Tech News:
I like TWiT and MacBreak Weekly, but big stories in recent years have been about Verizon iPhones, various US-only cloud initiatives. We don't have Google Voice or Kindle Fires and won't be getting them any time soon. Who covers the tech we do have access to?
(Also, I really like the TWIT network's format of having a round-table of regular panellists rather than a radio-style host plus a string of guests)

Left-wing politics:
I loved The Nation's podcasts, but I no longer live in that nation. Who can bring me up to speed on European politics, with either a left-wing or fact-based bias?

This American Life and Radio Lab are the best things ever. Who is doing innovative/quirky/wry reportage in the UK? Does anyone come close to that level? Also, I miss some NPR programmes such as On The Media, which takes a sideways look at the world of, er, media and provides amusing but intelligent commentary.

In general, I feel that American media do a better job of investigative reporting and challenging the Man, whereas in the UK they're more likely to satisfy themselves with reading out press releases. Who bucks this (perceived) trend?
posted by nowonmai to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You say you're familiar with the BBC, but what you're asking for is basically the Radio 4 schedules. E.g. if you're missing challenging-the-man then Today every morning on Radio 4 will disabuse you of the notion that it doesn't go on in the UK. It's perhaps not something to be proud of, but the (occasionally insightful) abuse politicians are subjected to on that programme is beyond anything you'll hear in the US (see also: Newsnight on BBC2). The show is 3 hours long, but there is a daily Best Of podcast. Home Truths used to be the This American Life analogue, but that's gone now. The nearest equivalents are From Our Own Correspondent, and You And Yours. For more serious "culture", In Our Time is, by the standards of popular radio, perhaps the most academic and cerebral show in the world. Start the Week is a little lighter but no less diverse.

The vast majority of long form deep investigative journalism in the UK takes place in newspapers (especially The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph), much of it in the Sunday papers (especially The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph). Some of it is on TV shows like Panorama (BBC) and Dispatches (C4).
posted by caek at 5:43 AM on October 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

You might like the Guardian Focus podcast. I must admit I've stopped listening to it (it replaced the Guardian Daily podcast, which I really enjoyed) for the most part, but it's part reporting and part discussion. (I think which one they do depends on the topic and thus the week.) Heck, just have a dig through the Guardian podcasts page if you want news-oriented things. I used to quite enjoy Islamophonic, but it hasn't had an episode in nearly two years. Its 'sibling' Sounds Jewish is still going. Of course, I've been listening to Football Weekly since its inception, but that's not the sort of highbrow thing you're looking for.
posted by hoyland at 6:19 AM on October 5, 2011

The Economist obviously.
posted by dfriedman at 6:37 AM on October 5, 2011

Please don't think I'm only after highbrow stuff! Football Weekly is excellent, and a similar approach to covering other topics would be perfect (my sports needs are covered by that and the Anfield Wrap, though). If there's a Football Weekly of the tech and gadgets world, that's your Best Answer right there!
posted by nowonmai at 6:37 AM on October 5, 2011

The Bugle is my main source for profane summaries and commentary on world and UK events.

The Economist has offered good podcasts; you have to subscribe for the full audio edition, but they've had a lot of material out for free.

As you note, you know about the BBC podcasts; those are the main UK things I listen to (Newshour, News Quiz, etc).

But yes, if you think that UK reporters don't "challenge the man", I'm afraid that you must have slipped into the mirror universe. Uk reporters set a world standard in tough interviewing. Thing is, you don't need to go to alternative or obscure reporting to find it - it's right there in the flagship news shows (Today show on bbc4, Jeremy Paxton on tv). Indeed, Moral Maze is so questioning that I find it too skeptical.
posted by jb at 6:39 AM on October 5, 2011

Check out A Fistful of Euros. It has great commentary on EU politics and economics. Also, the long looong list of links on their site is a good place to find more stuff depending on your tastes.

Arguably the best European (maybe even best global) english-language newspaper is the Financial Times. Note that that link is to the Europe front page; there is also a UK front page (and several others for that matter). They have been fairly proficient at setting up mobile-friendly stuff as well as a number of video and audio podcasts. The paper is a pretty orthodox pro-globalization, pro-free market capitalist publication (similar editorial outlook to the Economist). Given that, it is still one of the best news sources out there.

For something that questions authority a little more, have you checked out any of Al Jazeera's offerings directed at European audiences? They're going through some internal issues right now, so I can't speak to the future, but in the past I've found them to have a lot of interesting content, and certainly a different perspective.

tl;dr - Check out AFOE and maybe the FT.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2011

Do you listen to Kermode & Mayo for films? By far the best film programme. That, Football Weekly, World Football Phone-In, and then a few American geeky ones are my podcast diet. I found no British tech ones.
posted by fraac at 6:45 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

But yes, if you think that UK reporters don't "challenge the man", I'm afraid that you must have slipped into the mirror universe. Uk reporters set a world standard in tough interviewing.

The reporters and hosts on The World Today from the BBC World Service certainly challenge their guests, but it may be heavier on coverage of Asia and Africa rather than Europe than you're interested in.
posted by Jahaza at 6:56 AM on October 5, 2011

I think the most popular podcasts in the UK, at least among young people, and at least in terms of how often I hear my friends mention them, are Kermode and Mayo on films and Adam and Joe, which is kind of improvised in-joke comedy. FWIW I'm not a fan of either, and I'm not sure how well Adam and Joe in particular will translate for you, but just on basic UK podcast cultural literacy grounds they are worth checking out.
posted by caek at 7:18 AM on October 5, 2011

Answer Me This!
posted by devnull at 7:22 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think I've mis-spoken and sent things in the wrong direction. I have no interest in aggressive political interviews; I know where to find that on the BBC.

I am interested in investigative and fact-finding journalism, quirky and offbeat reportage, tech and gadget news, with relevance to the UK.
posted by nowonmai at 10:12 AM on October 5, 2011

PRI's the World does a specific technology podcast. It's not UK focussed, but is less US focussed than NPR podcasts. Really quite world-oriented.
posted by jb at 3:35 PM on October 5, 2011

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