The new Radio 3 has irritated some listeners. Yet is it really such a threat?
I met a man on Saturday night who said he would never have dreamt of listening to a Haydn piano sonata if Paul Gambaccini hadn't played some on Radio 3 last week. Now he is hooked.

For me, that's it: that's why we do it. It is justification in plenty of the risk we have taken in opening up Radio 3 to a new morning schedule, a new presenter and a new style. We know that Gerald Kaufman and Tom Lubbock would prefer to keep Radio 3 to themselves (though Kaufman's breathtaking ploy of threatening retribution on the whole of the BBC if it fails to follow his whims in this matter certainly gives political accountability a whole new meaning).

To anyone who cares passionately about communicating the riches of classical music and culture, Kaufman's is a deeply repugnant stance. There are those, including some who already listen - whose views I respect but cannot share - who would prefer Radio 3 to cultivate a "keep off the grass: this is only for those of you who know" attitude. They write to me in irritation at our attempts to open up the network to newcomers. Yet is this really a threat to them? Tom Lubbock, writing on the arts pages yesterday (headlined "Radio 3: a big mistake"), entirely neglected the message for the manner, and didn't mention a single thing our new presenter said; Robert Maycock, last Friday (Radio 3/Television round-up), got it right because he actually listened to what Paul Gambaccini had to say, adding context and background in an unintimidating way to the great performances he was playing.

Of course Lubbock is right that Radio 3 is elitist, and so it should continue to be; it would not have survived nearly 50 years as the envy of the world if it were not. But must it be so far up the Himalayas that only cultural mountaineers can get there? Elitist must never mean exclusive.

There was a nice cartoon in the Radio Times, shortly after the Third Programme was launched, showing a professorial character listening to the radio while his young son sits bound and gagged in a nearby chair. "No need to hurry home, darling," he says down the phone, "Julian and I are thoroughly enjoying the Third Programme." Good for you, but not the thing for me: that's the attitude we have been striving to change at Radio 3, and through the work of countless people prepared to take risks, from Andrew McGregor to Iain Burnside and from Brian Kay to Michael Berkeley, we're getting there without abandoning quality while increasing range.

Just imagine that the Radio 3 which Feedback correspondents, Kaufman and Lubbock castigate for its down-market tendencies and abandonment of high cultural purpose doesn't exist, and never did. Let us invent, from scratch, the country's leading public service network of classical music and cultural programming, serving a mass audience of 2.5 million listeners a week, far more than are able to attend concerts or opera or the theatre. It doesn't need to duplicate Classic FM, an excellent commercial service with no responsibility to musical life other than to deliver listeners to advertisers. Our only aim is to lead taste and develop enthusiasm. What programmes should we broadcast?

For a start, the network would reflect and broadcast the most exciting musical events taking place around the country by relaying concerts: Simon Rattle's Beethoven series in Birmingham; Richard Hickox's Vaughan Williams cycle; the survey of Britten's songs mounted by the Wigmore Hall. It would bring us opera from around Europe; it would mount its own concerts with its own orchestras, giving first broadcasts in Manchester of important pieces by Colin Matthews and Robin Holloway, or sending them as ambassadors of the BBC abroad, bringing Elliott Carter's new music to America. It would mount a Purcell concert in Bristol; live lunchtime chamber music concerts in Manchester and Birmingham.

It could tour British cathedrals, exploring their architecture and choral traditions. There would be drama, talks on architecture and, well, let's say a quirky five-part series on building walls. In the mornings, when listeners are getting ready for work, it could offer specially recorded orchestral performances, a series of Mozart symphonies or Purcell songs; in the early evenings, around the varied riches of Telemann's concertos, it would keep them up to date with news, travel and events in the arts. At 9am a welcoming (yes, Tom!) presenter would guide new listeners through the great symphonic tone-poems, and later in the morning one composer's music would be explored in a concentrated hour's survey.

In the afternoons, a single presenter would offer a coherent sequence of listeners' own requests, or collections of English folk songs or neglected British music. There would be jazz, early music, rarities such as the music of the Boston Romantics, new music from Holland, tributes to much- loved musicians such as Alexander Gibson and Alfreda Hodgson. For a younger audience, a short and punchy programme after school every day would explore writing music for television, or try to explain the well-tempered keyboard in intelligible terms.

Might that be a cultural network of which even Gerald Kaufman would be proud? But all that is precisely what Radio 3 did in the last week alone, using a group of highly committed presenters, producers and contributors, whose achievement continues to be the equal of any broadcast service anywhere in the world.

You don't need to notice that; you could take it for granted, and you could just criticise change because it is not what you're used to. You could support a culture of slow decline rather than change and renewal. But I wouldn't.

The writer is controller of Radio 3.