Blunkett deplores Radio 4 standards

BBC RADIO 4 is full of second-rate drama and undergraduate humour, according to one of its lifelong fans and latest critic, David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education.

In an article, Mr Blunkett yesterday said Radio 4 had been his "window on the world". He even remembered dancing as a four-year-old with his mother to the signature tune of The Archers.

Of radio drama, he said: "Until a year or two ago, there were superb productions coming from the beleaguered editorial and production staff, desperately clinging to high standards, realistic sound effects and top- class acting."

Now, however, that had changed. "I fear that a lifetime's pleasure is being replaced by second-rate and poorly produced dramas which try too hard to be clever and seem too often to reflect the need to meet a quota from independent production companies rather than a high standard of quality drama."

He went on to lambast a "new wave of comedy programmes which seem to reflect the worst standards of undergraduate humour". And he criticised new trailers for programmes. "[They] presume that we are jumping up and down clapping our hands while listening rather than being a part of an intelligent audience."

He urged Radio 4 to rediscover the balance between gentle entertainment and serious current affairs before the "real Radio 4" is lost for ever.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "It is a shame that David Blunkett seems to have missed the recent acclaimed productions of Bleak House and Villette ... We hope he will manage to hear the very different styles of comedy in Quote Unquote and the new series Yes I Can Boogie, written by and featuring able bodied and disabled performers, as well as tuning in to the 1999 Reith lectures."

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