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Radio review: Why Do You Hate Me? and Test Match Special

09 February 2024

BBC/Katie Rice

Marianna Spring, the BBC’s disinformation and social-media correspondent, presents Why Do You Hate Me? (Radio 4, Wednesdays)

Marianna Spring, the BBC’s disinformation and social-media correspondent, presents Why Do You Hate Me? (Radio 4, Wednesdays)

“ONE of the most trolled BBC journalists.” It is a strange boast; but we’re dealing here with Marianna Spring, who is — as she proudly announces at the start of her new Radio 4 series — “the BBC’s first ever disinformation and social-media correspondent”. She is “a prime target for trolls”, and the title of her show is surely more than coincidentally self-referential. Why Do You Hate Me? (Radio 4, Wednesdays) tells the story of people who have suffered social-media pile-ons. Some have contributed to their fate; others are innocent; all, in one way or another, are victims.

In the case of Julia Wandelt, featured in the first episode, it’s a bit of both. In early 2023, Ms Wandelt made the news by claiming that she was Madeleine McCann. There was no particular reason for anyone to take the claim seriously; and the fact that Ms Wandelt could remember nothing of her early childhood spoke more of trauma than abduction. That anyone paid any attention — still less, got so riled as to fire off the customary death-threats — tells us more about people who spend an unhealthy amount of time on social media than about Ms Wandelt’s credibility.

All this makes one wonder whether this is really a suitable subject for further scrutiny by the BBC’s first ever disinformation and social-media correspondent. Spring does her best to big it up; but this is, at best, a 15-minute story padded out to fill 30 minutes with the help of commentaries on her own journalistic skills (“I’m not going to disclose her exact location,” she reassures us unnecessarily); and irrelevance posing as ambience (for instance, the attitude of Ms Wandelt’s cat at their first meeting).

There is a vein of self-important pretension in all of this which suggests that Spring has herself sojourned long enough in the rabbit warren. And what effect has the furore had on the McCanns? Sensibly, they don’t do social media, and it is to be hoped that they are blessedly unaware of this latest indignity.

Cricket fans wishing to keep up with events in India — including a momentous first Test victory for England — are obliged to seek out TalkSport 2 and recalibrate their ears to the voices, attitudes, and style of, among others, Steve Harmison, Darren Gough, and Kevin Pietersen. Once the guilt in being disloyal to the Test Match Special (TMS) team has been overcome, there is much to enjoy in the TalkSport coverage. Harmison is the first person who has managed to explain reverse swing in a way that your reviewer can vaguely understand; and the ding-dong between Peterson and Harsha Bhogle on the ethics and legality of the reverse sweep was a genuine thrill.

Yet, the free-flowing banter — much like England’s free-flowing cricket — has its flaws. The commentators are often catching up on balls already delivered, some of them wicket-takers. And there is not the seemingly effortless change of conversational pace which, with the TMS team, mirrors the tension and release, the drama and longueurs, of this most sophisticated form of the game.

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