Archers abusers

Why is everyone reacting to the Helen and Rob storyline as though they were real people, writes Claire Fox in The Spectator

It’s been going on for months now and I must make a confession. I secretly endure a nightly battering in the privacy of my home; it’s been relentless, torturous and psychologically damaging. But before anyone rushes to rescue me or phones a government helpline, fearing I am the victim of some dastardly wife beater — I should explain that the culprit is Radio 4’s The Archers and its relentless and addictive domestic abuse storyline.

My torment was supposed to end last Sunday night, with the conclusion of Helen Titchener’s trial for stabbing her bullying, much-hated husband Rob. When the jury foreman announced not guilty, I was with the rest of the nation, roaring ‘Yes!’ And yet, straight afterwards, I came over all queasy as Rob resumed his threats… Just as Helen has been a victim of manipulation for a whole 18 months, so have we, the listeners. When will it ever stop?

Thanks to a script that denies its audience any choice about who they should sympathise with, what they should think and, even more galling for me, what political position to take, lately The Archers has started to come across like propaganda rather than drama. It no longer ends with that jaunty theme tune but the sober caveat: ‘If you’ve been affected by any of the subjects raised in the programme, details of organisations offering information and support are available…’ Certain episodes have amounted to little more than adverts for the National Domestic Violence Helpline. Ironically, of course, this was why the series was invented: to teach men returning home how to farm after the second world war. But I am less convinced of the ethics of ramming home heavily politicised messages today.

Read the full article here.