Critics of the phone-in describe it as no more than a cheap way of filling airtime and undoubtedly it is sometimes used as such. But like anything else, the priority it is accorded and the production methods applied to it will decide whether it is simply transmitter fodder or whether it can be useful and interesting to the listener. ‘It's Your World’ on the BBC's World Service has at least the potential for putting anyone anywhere in touch with a major international figure to question policy and discuss issues of the day.

Through public participation, the aim of a phone-in is to allow a democratic expression of view and to create the possibility of community action. An important question, therefore, is to what extent such a programme ...

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