Dear Michael Green: An angry gardener vents his spleen at the controller of Radio 4 for losing the entire panel of a much-loved programme to Classic FM

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Indy Lifestyle Online
You have spoiled our Sundays, and the nation's gardeners will not easily forgive you. We are, in general, an easy-going bunch, slow to anger. The measured pace of the gardening year gives us patience, while coping with unpredictable natural hazards helps to put life's ups and downs into perspective.

Once aroused, though, we bear dreadful grudges and if I were you I would stay away from your local garden centre for the next several months. The silly thing is that you probably did not mean to do it. When you casually decided that, to conform to current BBC orthodoxy, you would put Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time out to an independent producer, you did not predict that the whole impeccable cast of experts would, in the selfsame spirit of free enterprise, up and sell themselves to Classic FM.

To lose a chairman or a panellist may be tolerable. To lose an entire programme smacks of rank carelessness.

You cannot blame the defecting quintet, who were given no guarantees of continued employment. Forward planning is part of a gardener's nature. If, looking ahead, Stefan and Daphne and Sue and Bridget and Fred saw the prospect of a barren harvest, it is no surprise that they should seek a less hostile growing environment. It is, after all, their living.

I expect - and sincerely hope - that you are feeling dreadful about it. You and your managing director, Liz Forgan, have made a lot of noises about reaching out for new listeners. But, as you have already seen from the ratings slump over on Radio 1, there is not much point in that, so you cast aside even more old ones instead.

Gardeners' Question Time will, of course, continue under its new producer and new chairman. They will now have a free hand to experiment with celebrity panellists, star interviews, competitions and all the other elements that are supposed to add zest to radio. The trouble is that nobody will be listening. We gardeners, deeply suspicious of zest in all its forms, will be over with our old mates at Classic FM. No number of gimmicks, meanwhile, will attract non-gardeners to a programme that is about gardening.

There is a terrible arrogance about all this. When people complain about changes in much-loved programmes, you defend yourself by pointing to the fuss when Woman's Hour was switched from the afternoon to the morning. You think it was all drummed up by the media and point out that the programme's audience has grown. So it has, but the point was that the old Woman's Hour and its presenters were unchanged. Here a radio institution has disappeared because of your thoughtless meddling.

If you are going to produce radio programmes that people want to hear, rather than those you think they ought to want to hear, you will have to listen to them. So far you seem to have alienated many more people than you have pleased.

(Photograph omitted)

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