THE RATINGS

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The Independent Culture
Jonathan Miller, opera director

I haven't listened much since it was the Third Programme, but I do long for the days when you could hear Isaiah Berlin giving six hour-long lectures without a script. It was a going concern right from the beginning, and it didn't need changing in the way that the Volkswagen Beetle doesn't need changing. There's always been the politically correct view that it was elitist, but it actually worked against elitism because it was the only place that people could hear such ideas; it was a kind of irrigation system.

Pam Gems, playwright and translator

I did worry that when Classic FM started R3 would pursue a kind of pseudo- populism, but it still manages to be wonderfully obscure. The drama is very good, and I'd like to think that R3 was a place for an experimental mix of drama, music and sound; where you could fail gloriously. My main concern is that the BBC doesn't sell itself down the river through lack of money, but at the moment there's enough variety on R3 for me.

Claire Tomalin, biographer and critic

Nick Kenyon's given a tremendous lift to the Proms, and I think that the Saturday-night operas from the Met are one of the most wonderful things on radio. However, I would like to have more serious critical discussion of arts and books brought back. It seems that radio is now overwhelmingly dedicated to spontaneity. It's an important virtue, but I'd like to have more of the other element of considered critical response and thought.

Jane Glover, conductor and BBC governor

Nick Kenyon has taken a lot of flak over his changes, but the network is now much friendlier, and is still exploring the further corners of the repertory. When Classic FM started, he could have met it on its own ground or loftily ignored it - he's been accused of both, but he's done neither. Classic FM has helped him define where Radio 3 is, and he's capitalised on the differences. The fact that Radio 3 hasn't lost listeners speaks eloquently of that. Nick Kenyon's very good at saying "I've made a mistake", and then doing something about it. When your back's against the wall, it's much easier to go on insisting you're right.

Jo Shapcott, poet

I listen not only for the music, which is interesting, but because Radio 3 is the place where you find those intriguing things that nobody else does, like innovative poetry written for the radio - and the radio is one of the best mediums for poetry. It has a strange and particular mix of programmes, and long may it continue.

Katie Mitchell, theatre and opera director

I was a very regular listener, but now I've moved to Classic FM and Radio 4. I felt Radio 3 was being very patronising in its attempt to make classical music "accesible". I'm more comfortable with the honest populism of Classic FM, where you listen to the music and know the adverts are coming - there's a directness about that. I don't understand why they decided to change Radio 3; now there's more chat, and I want to be able to listen to the music without commentators acting as filters. In the old days someone would say the title of the piece, then play it.

Nick Darke, playwright

I like to listen to Radio 3 from the next room. It helps with the writing process. It has a marvellous continual quality - the announcers explain what the work is, then they play it. They're never intrusive, and I love all that. I think Radio 3's very vital and important - I'm not one of these people who likes everything sepia-tinted and goes on about how marvellous Wilfrid Pickles and Worker's Playtime were.

Lisa Jardine, academic and ex-R3 presenter

Nicholas Kenyon made that brave move to turn Radio 3 from a toffs' music station to something more challenging, and for a couple of years he was doing well, but he kept being sniped at by the old listeners. A number of programmes that were attempted, like Making Waves - the Sunday edition of Night Waves - were dropped even though they were doing well, because old people wrote in and complained that they weren't getting enough Mahler. Radio 3 has ducked the challenge of Classic FM - it neither matches its upbeatness or boosts itself with high-quality talk. It tried to emulate Classic FM by putting Paul Gambaccini on, but then lost its nerve and sacked him.

Ralph Bernard, chief executive, Classic FM

Classic FM has a distinctive mix of programming which separates the radio station very clearly from Radio 3 in output, presentation and style. Radio 3 is an essential cornerstone of the arts, a publicly funded service which supports new and live music-making in Britain today. Classic FM's proposition is quite different - to introduce classical music to a wider audience, reduce its aura of intimidation and restore some of its vibrancy and excitement.

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