Radio 4 changes attract listeners

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RADIO 4's new schedule added over 200,000 new listeners to the station during its first three weeks on air, according to unofficial audience figures seen by The Independent yesterday.

April's monthly Rajar figures show that average weekly listeners rose from 8,161,000 in the first three months of the year to 8,374,000 during April. The figures are even an improvement on the same month in 1997 when Radio 4's audience was boosted by the general election campaign.

The new schedule, which was widely trailed by the station, has seen a number of long running shows like Farming Today cut while others have moved around the schedule. Radio 4 refused to comment on the figures, but a source confirmed that the station is encouraged by early reaction to the schedule.

"The detailed figures show that listening is up in key areas," says an insider. "No one wants to count their chickens, but at least they're not in the other direction."

The figures support Radio 4's own research which shows that around half of all listeners broadly like the changes while around 10 per cent dislike them.

Women's fears that hundreds of new television channels will turn their families into couch potatoes could cause the coming digital TV revolution to flop, according to a new survey.

In most households, women are the "gate-keepers" of multi-channel television. Generally less enthusiastic about digital television, women hold back demand and persuade men and children against digital TV, the study has found. The research, commissioned by airtime buying agency, Western International Media, suggests that multi-channel television has a limited appeal, with 53 per cent of viewers saying they were not seeking any more choice.