BBC revises new Radio 4 schedule

RADIO 4 is to scrap some of its new lunchtime quizzes and bring back the 9am news bulletin after complaints from listeners about changes made five months ago to the station's schedule.

The best of the quizzes and panel games will stay but, from next January, factual feature programmes will be run after The World at One two days a week. Radio 4 has broadcast a wide range of panel games at lunchtime, trying to find what it calls "the new classics".

However, calls to the station's helpline, letters and e-mails have shown that programmes such as Mastermind, Puzzle Panel, Full Orchestra and X Marks the Spot are too much for listeners when they are on five days a week.

Features on arts, music and rural subjects are being commissioned for next year.

The 9am news bulletin immediately after the Today programme was abandoned when the new schedule was launched in April, to try to carry more listeners through into the post-9am programmes. The station suffers from a massive switch-off after all its news programmes and the new schedule was designed to hold that half of the station's 5 million audience that tunes in just for John Humphrys and The Archers.

However, after conducting listener research, James Boyle, controller of Radio 4, has decided to bring back the bulletin.

"Listeners have told me - and I agree with them - that the 1.30pm slot is not quite right yet," Mr Boyle told members of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer pressure group in London last night.

"In response to listener feedback, I am also restoring the two-minute news bulletin at 9am, which will take effect from Monday, October 5."

The BBC chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, yesterday acknowledged that listening figures for parts of the schedule introduced in April were "a little disappointing", and Mr Boyle said it had yet to win universal approval.

Listening figures since the radical schedule changes have been mixed: audience numbers were up, but the hours of listening were slightly down.

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