Success for radio replay of 'Lord of the Rings'

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Radio 4's broadcast of The Lord of the Rings – actually a repeat of a 20-year-old dramatisation starring Sir Ian Holm – drew a million listeners each week during its 13-week run.

Figures released yesterday showed the serial, timed to coincide with the release of the blockbuster film, was the highest audience for a radio drama for at least a decade. The transmissions, which began on 5 January, ran on Saturday afternoons, not always the most popular time for radio listening; but football and shopping seemed to play second fiddle to a weekly dose of Tolkien for large numbers of listeners.

Sir Ian, who played the reluctant hero, Frodo Baggins, in the Radio 4 dramatisation, went on to play the older Bilbo in the film version

The station's airing of the Forsyte Chronicles in the early 1990s brought in a slightly higher audience, although different research methods were used at that time.

The Controller of Radio 4, Helen Boaden, said yesterday: "I'm delighted that my decision to broadcast The Lord of the Rings has brought a record audience to Saturday afternoons who clearly relished this wonderful dramatisation."