Archers face up to six-day week

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The Independent Online
Eddie Grundy, the laziest man in the English countryside, may find he has more than a new dairy parlour to get up and running if Radio 4 bosses get their way.

The fictitious Eddie, whose indolence almost cost him his farm on The Archers earlier this year, will find himself working six days a week if a plan by James Boyle, controller of Radio 4, to add another episode to the radio soap is approved. Mr Boyle, who joined Radio 4 last year, is at present conducting a review of all of the station's output and is reported to be considering putting the extra episode on at weekends. This comes on top of previous plans to extend The Archers omnibus edition on Sundays so it can at last re-play all of the previous week's episodes.

If it is a sop to farmers who have been outraged by Mr Boyle's leaked plans to scrap Farming Today, it may not work. The everyday tale of farming folk may have started off as an attempt to get farmers to grow more food, but its three million listeners a week are now more likely to live in cities.

An extension of The Archers would follow the pattern followed by television in recent years where schedulers have sought to boost listeners by adding extra episodes of Coronation Street, Emmerdale and EastEnders.

If true it also seems to illustrate that Mr Boyle is following a policy of "more of a good thing" to bring the station to more listeners. He has proposed extending Radio 4's other most popular programme Today, which is why Farming Today may go.

There has also been talk of Mr Boyle being really radical and extending Today all the way through to lunch time as an "umbrella" strand over other programmes.

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