Leading Article: Never mind the ratings, just feel the quality

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The Independent Culture
BROADCASTERS LIKE their rituals as much as any High-Church Anglican. The quarterly radio ratings figures, published yesterday, are the occasion of one of the most meaningless. The instant analysis is always the same, with minor variations. Should James Boyle stay or go as boss of Radio 4? Is Zoe Ball or Chris Evans up or down?

But whether ratings are going up or down, strange to say, does not tell us much about the health of the stations, or of radio in general. What matters is choice and quality, and on these issues the statistics are silent. It may be too much to expect Mr Evans to put quality before profit. But for Mr Boyle, controller of a public-service channel, chasing ratings is folly. He encouraged the ritual by saying he would go if audience figures dropped. He should have said that he would go if his programmes were no good. Never mind ratings, his job should be on the line for giving us the execrable "comedy" produced by Punt and Dennis. Healthy competition means Radio 4's ratings are bound to fall over time: we should celebrate the widening of choice, not worry about the decline of civilisation as we know it.

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