Radio 4 theme 'axed amid audience figures mix-up'

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The Independent Online

The former BBC Radio 4 controller who caused a storm when he axed the UK Theme has admitted his decision was fuelled by a bungle over audience figures.

Mark Damazer was under the impression when he decided to axe the tune - which opened the day's broadcasts for nearly 30 years - that barely anyone listened to it.

But he has now revealed he had been misinformed about the way audience figures were compiled and there had actually been hundreds of thousands of listeners at that time.

Fritz Spiegel's tune - a medley of traditional music including Danny Boy and Rule Britannia - had been used since 1978 and the decision to end the 5.30am broadcast brought thousands of complaints.

Mr Damazer said his decision to drop the theme had been made for editorial reasons, but conceded that there had been a misconception about audience levels.

It came about because of a convention by research body Rajar to register listener levels every 15 minutes. So the audience at the start of the day's programmes did not show up until a quarter of an hour later, at 5.45am.

He admitted the mistake to colleagues at his BBC leaving party recently.

"When I looked at this I had the very obvious observation to make that we appeared to be doing very badly between 5.30am and 5.45am.

"These things happen in life," he told the Daily Telegraph.

The slot now attracts more listeners, according to audience figures.