SIR John Drummond, former Controller of Radio Three, is surely right to claim that Britain in general and the broadcast media in particular have dumbed down to an abysmal level. If you are tempted to think that intelligence and taste still count for something in public life, just go to the radio and twiddle the knob from one end of the waveband to the other: the overwhelming saturation is a lousy noise called "pop"; station after station indistinguishable. Yet when I asked the authorities for a wider slot for Radio Three I was told the waveband is already full.

Listen to how they speak on these radio stations. Correction: they don't speak; they grunt and squeal and swear and shriek. Listen to what they grunt about: pop stars and the concupiscent doings thereof; night clubs; clothes; how much they can drink.

But, you say, we can tolerate a bit of nonsense here and there. Except it isn't it bit. It is all over the waveband. Even Radio Four offers little relief with its brainless consumer programmes. Again, listen to how they talk: we are not "members of the public" anymore; we are "consumers" and "punters" - what Thomas Carlyle used to call "Mayfair clothes-horses and patent digesters".

Listen to the programmes that begin at nine-o-five: gassy trivia and giggles from such as Libby - sundried tomatoes - Purves and oodles of nasal oversimplification from the anodyne Bragg. Patronising Noddy language on Thought for the Day. The same catchwords and hack phrases again and again: a "special" this and a "special" that. But where everything is special, nothing is special. They can't say "big"; everything more than three inches long is "major"; no one actually does anything any more; everyone "plays a role".

Even Radio Three has dumbed down considerably: too much repetitive jazz and Peruvian nose flute music; snatches of symphonies; movements of symphonies played in the wrong sequence; one after another of lachrymose sentimentalists such as Fergal Keane coming on to present their choice of music.

Television is unspeakable. Saturday evening on the main channel BBC1 is Jim's Full Vacuity followed by Spot the Moron followed by the intellectual challenge of the National Lottery Live - which is indistinguishable from the National Lottery dead - followed by fake blood and pretend sex in the medical dramas. Fluffy animals and children's hospitals. Then there are the soap operas which caricature real life and contain in their cast lists not a single intelligent or interesting character.

The impression given on these shows - watched by more than half the adult population each week - is that life consists of packaged holidays and child-abuse occasionally relieved by bouts of glue-sniffing and incest. "Family viewing", it's called. But all the families here are dysfunctional.

As on radio, all the documentaries are introduced by a snarl of pop music and even the BBC news begins to a disco Greenwich time signal. Often the nasty music continues right through the programmes, especially the holiday programmes, which may consist of Sharon telling you how much she drank in Tenerife or how Doug enjoyed the lap-dancers in Las Vegas.

Even when they go on a "classics" holiday, there is no real history or culture: the presenters, scared stiff of appearing "elitist", merely join the blundering tourists by day, the limit of whose brain power it is to ask, "How old is it?" and the leering, drug-crazed clubbers by night. No need to fear elitism. They're about as elitist as Sid the Sexist and the Fat Slags in Viz. All this is called "fun". We'd be better off reading the telephone directory.

Other examples of mass participation are the "nuts and sluts" shows in which "an invited audience" - but what would an uninvited audience look like? - discuss social problems in the studio: wife-beating, alcoholism, religious sects and cults, etc. Sheila from Sheffield is having an affair with her grandad. Brian from Bognor thinks it would be sexy to have a leg amputated.

These discussions are always emotionally stultifying and intellectually banal. Bread and circuses, they produce and elicit uninformed and unreflective responses which are merely self-indulgent, embarrassing and childish.

Then there are the shows in studied bad taste such as Blind Date in which individuals are regarded only as objects of others' satisfactions. This goes right against a fundamental early lesson which we try to teach our children in real life: that human beings are not to be treated as means to an end, but as ends in themselves.

Bring back Sir John Drummond - as Minister of Culture!