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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 11:27 GMT
Rock star Yorke sets radio agenda
Radiohead singer Thom Yorke outside parliament
Thom Yorke has spoken out on a number of political issues
Radiohead singer Thom Yorke took over Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday during a week of guest editors that also includes novelist Monica Ali and Professor Stephen Hawking.

Thom Yorke's first thought when the Today programme asked him to be editor for the day was: "They must be crazy."

But as a politically-minded figure who has spoken out about issues like world trade and war in Iraq, he listened "religiously" to the agenda-setting news show.

And he saw the offer as a chance "to get things said that aren't really being said", he told BBC News Online.

He chose six stories for Today reporters to investigate - from a censored US report on the 11 September attacks and the influence of oil on foreign policy to music software and hangovers.

It was just mayhem, absolute mayhem
Thom Yorke on a breaking news story
The stories were "just what has been rattling around in my head", he said.

"These are things that have occupied my mind all year so it's a chance to get someone else to do some work and find out things that I wanted to know about anyway, but didn't actually have the answers to."

But one story, about the largest radio company in the US, Clear Channel, which also has worldwide interests in radio, concert promotion, concert venues and advertising, did not make it to air.

Legal worries

"Clear Channel are notoriously litigious and we talked about doing a piece but it didn't really work out," Yorke said.

"The legal department of Radio 4 were worried about Clear Channel coming down on them. But we're going to save that for another day."

The radio studio was a world away from the recording studios Yorke is more familiar with, especially when a breaking story arose.

The news was about the arrest of a man in connection with the fatal shooting of a police officer in Leeds on Boxing Day.

Yorke on stage in a T-shirt bearing the slogan
Yorke on stage in a T-shirt bearing the slogan "No Star Wars"
"It was just mayhem, absolute mayhem," Yorke said. "And that was pretty mild, apparently."

"You have the programme rattling on in the speakers underneath, and then you've got the editor saying you need to do this and this.

"You've got Jim coming in on the intercom saying 'we need a comment from the police'.

"We've got someone else trying to get another phone call on the line - you've got five or six conversations all happening at once at the same volume in the room, and only one of them is the programme."

Other stories tackled included the differences between developed and developing countries over world trade.

That was "really interesting because it really looks like the World Trade Organisation is in crisis", Yorke said.


He also chose to look at plans to make RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire part of a US "Star Wars" missile defence programme because the story had drifted off the agenda.

The singer said being guest editor also made him realise how many vital stories the programme covered every day.

He defended the show, saying some parts of the media "can't accept the fact that the Today programme sets the agenda so often because it's the best one", he said.

But Yorke was sceptical about how much influence his own story choices would have on the day's agenda on New Year's Eve - apart from the hangover discussion.

Thom Yorke's commissioned report on computer music

Yorke and Ali to edit BBC's Today
23 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
Radiohead take over radio station
22 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
Radiohead join trade protest
19 Jun 02  |  Entertainment
Radiohead mystery deepens
16 Jun 03  |  Entertainment


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