It's a longer Today for you and your Radio 4 listeners

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Radio 4 listeners face the biggest shake-up in their listening habits since the station's birth after its controller revealed a complete revamp of its schedule yesterday.

A total of 11 long-standing programmes face the axe from next April, including the arts programme, Kaleidoscope, the satirical revue, Weekending, The Afternoon Shift magazine and the disability programme, Does He Take Sugar?

But the order of programmes has been radically altered, with heavier, specialist programmes like The Moral Maze, File on 4 and Analysis being clustered in the evenings while the morning schedule fills with chat shows, drama and comedy. Millions are also likely to be put out by The Archers starting 20 minutes later in the afternoons.

The station's controller, James Boyle, said the changes are a move away from a "medieval town plan schedule" to strategic scheduling that is "persuasive and seductive" to occasional listeners.

"Radio 4 has lived in fear of part of its audience," Mr Boyle said. "A minority of the audience is resistant even to the notion of change, but it is a good idea if for the sake of some changes we strengthen Radio 4 for the future."

The new schedule begins on weekday mornings with Farming Today moving forward by 25 minutes so the Today program-me can start at 6am. Mr Boyle admitted he had planned to scrap Farming Today because only a fifth of farmers listen to it. But it is retained as a link between the town and the countryside.

Mr Boyle has also hesitated over scrapping Yesterday in Parliament but he will lobby the BBC's news and current affairs department to move the programme because it loses Radio 4 around 300,000 listeners.

A daily interview programme will begin at 9am instead of another news bulletin. This will swallow Melvyn Bragg's Start the Week and Libby Purve's Midweek. Mr Boyle insisted they would not become light-weight chat shows.

Woman's Hour will start 30 minutes earlier, at 10am, and its daily reading from a novel will become a drama serial. Mr Boyle said he was looking for Radio 4 versions of Casualty or London's Burning for this slot.

Woman's Hour will be followed at 11am by half-hour factual programmes such as From Our Own Correspondent which also becomes a 52-week a year staple on Saturday mornings.

You and Yours, the daily consumer affairs show will continue to start at 12am. This swallows the disability show, Does He Take Sugar?

David Grayson, chairman of the National Disability Council, said the 6.5 million disabled people in the country would be concerned at losing a dedicated programme focusing on disability issues.

However the Royal National Institute for the Blind registered relief yesterday that In Touch, Radio 4's programme for the blind, survives in an evening slot.

The World at One news is to be cut by 10 minutes and followed at 1.30pm by quiz shows such as Brain of Britain.

The Archers will move from 1.40pm to 2pm and to keep Archers' fans tuned in it will be followed at 2.15pm each day by a radio play that will run until 3pm.

At 3pm, The Afternoon Shift will be replaced by shows like Moneybox Live and Gardener's Question Time. Gardener's Question Time also airs on Sundays at 2pm.

At 4pm, instead of Kaleidoscope, the BBC wants to pick up the 750,000 teachers who are leaving work with programmes such as The Food Programme and new programmes about books and education.

A comedy slot for shows like Just a Minute has been created at 6.30pm daily. The News Quiz and planned new satirical shows will move to every Friday night at 6.30pm.

The Archers stays at 7pm but gets an extra 7pm Sunday night episode. The Archers Omnibus becomes longer and moves forward 10 minutes to 10am on Sundays.

After The Archers, Radio 4 will broadcast its new nightly arts programme before specialist factual programmes start at 8pm.

A new feature of the evening schedule is a daily comedy slot after 11pm.

The Today programme extends to Saturday morning from 7am to 9am, before a family and leisure-based discussion replaces Sport on Four and Breakaway. Saturday mornings stay largely the same, but there will be a best of Woman's Hour at 4pm and Saturday evening will see a new film programme and an entertainment discussion slot to replace Weekending.

On Sundays the Morning Service has been moved forward to 8am so a new Sunday morning news programme can run from 9am to 10am.

Jocelyn Hay, chairman of the BBC lobby group, Voice of the Listener and Viewer, said yesterday that she was still prepared to give Mr Boyle the benefit of the doubt until she heard the new programmes being proposed, but she added: "Radio 4 listeners will not forgive him if he has got it wrong."

Leading article, page 15