Silent Radio is a completely new concept in news and entertainment media. Absolutely nobody has ever done it before this week.
We have had Silent Theatre of course, mime artists were one of the earliest forms of theatrical entertainment; we have had Silent Movies, a sensation in their day but now something of a niche form found mostly in French Art-House theatres, we have silent TV occasionally, usually a show called "We apologise for the temporary loss of sound; we have even had silent classical music.
Silent Radio however is a totally new idea.
The station that has pioneered silent radio broadcasts is not some avant garde technology venture aimed at geeks who insist on listening to digital radio even though the sound quality is so crappy the experience becomes painful after a few seconds. Radio Teesdale, a UK local station has been around for years broadcasting music, news and chat on AM and FM bands and with a web feed. Very run of the mill.
On Wednesday (5 March) however, a busy newsday, the flagship breakfast show went silent for an hour.
As presenter Andy Greener chatted about results from the Primaries in Texas and Ohio, the crisis brewing in Palestine, the resignation of a British politician, football (soccer) results and trivia and kept up a running joke about paranormal phenomena at 900 year old Barnard Castle nearby nobody was hearing him.
It was the Barnard Castle thing that prompted his unscheduled experiment in silent radio. Aha you may think, but Andy is not Alan Partridge and it was not a case of spooks invading the studio and messing up the electronics. What happened was the producer did not want to interrupt Andy while he was chatting about serious news (do you notice a case of not thinking things through properly here?) and only tried to call him on the intercom when he was doing the Barnard Castle drivel.
Andy on the other hand was so intent on his surreal flights of fancy he completely failed to notice the red light on his console flashing.
The story, because you are dying to know, concerns a dungeon in the ancient castle in which there is said to be a portal that leads to the nether world. What Andy was telling his non-audience was that people can only pass through the portal into a parallel universe if they are wearing nothing but striped undershorts and a woolly hat with a little bobble on top like one of the characters in South Park wears.
Every time the producer tried to raise Andy he was further into his story about the terrible fate of people who tried to pass through the portal while not appropriately attired. Eventually he noticed the warning light however and switched on the intercom channel.
"For God’s sake hit the red button," the producer yelled, " nothing has gone out for an hour."
Andy had forgotten to switch from automatic overnight mode, which plays bland, easy listening music when the station is not broadcasting live. And the tape had ended on schedule.
So Radio Teesdale was back on the air and the great silent radio experiment was pronounced a failure.
Alas we shall never know the fate of those people who passed through the Barnard Castle time/space portal. Did they return safely or are they still wandering the nether world dressed only in striped undershorts and bobble hats.