Radio 4 chief girds up for battle to save his audience

Radio 4 controller James Boyle will stand in the Art Deco boardroom at the BBC's London headquarters today and tell the governors the station needs to change because half its audience only listen to the Today programme, The World at One and The Archers.

Research already presented to groups like the Confederation of British Industry, the Consumers' Association and the Guild of Cookery Writers shows Radio 4 loses as many as 620,000 listeners the minute Today finishes.

After The world at One as many as 400,000 listeners turn off and almost half a million disappear when The Archers ends. This means Radio 4's audience declines faster in the mornings than the rest of the country's radio stations. Most other stations see a slow decline from the mornings to the end of the day, but Radio 4's audience falls from a peak of 2.2 million to 500,000 in two hours.

Mr Boyle's research, seen by The Independent, shows half Radio 4's audience listen to other stations more than they listen to Radio 4. Loyalty to programmes is weak - except for news programmes, Radio 4's audience only tunes into the same slots once or twice a week.

Mr Boyle is also concerned that the average age of the station is 53, and of the 8.3 million people who listen in a week only 1.2 million are under 35. He wants to reverse a trend that has seen younger listeners move to Radio 5 Live.

The research also confirms that Radio 4's audience is overwhelmingly English. Only 500,000 of listeners hail from Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The new schedule will be announced next week and then Radio 4 plans a big public-information campaign to go over the head of a press which the corporation sees as hostile to change, and direct to listeners.

Radio 4 will broadcast a special hotline number - like that used to help re-tuning during Test Match Special - so listeners can get details of the schedule before it goes on air in April. It will also advertise the hotline number in the national press.

Mr Boyle will tell the governors he wants to build on what is good about the station and apply a few modern scheduling techniques. Because Today is so successful he will extend it to take in Farming Today and Yesterday in Parliament.

This has attracted the wrath of MPs, but by airing Today in Parliament late at night the BBC is within its charter obligations on covering Parliament and if he is brave Mr Boyle can ignore Speaker Betty Boothroyd's "expression of concern". To stop the switch-off by 620,000 listeners when Today ends, the 9am slot is to be refreshed so that Melvyn Bragg's Start the Week will turn into a celebrity chat show. Midweek may go altogether, and The Moral Maze will be moved to evenings.

Woman's Hour is likely to move to a 10am start to provide the cement in the morning schedule. A mid-morning drama has also been reported.

The consumer-affairs programme You and Yours may be revamped and the unloved Afternoon Shift is likely to go so that PM can move to a 4pm start time. The "more of a good thing" philosophy will be extended to The Archers, which will get another episode on a Saturday and a longer Sunday omnibus edition.

Saturday mornings, are deemed as ripe areas to pick up listeners so Cliff Morgan's Sport of Four may go as will the anomaly of having the dull and worthy Money Box between lighter-weight shows like Loose Ends and the 12.30 comedy games shows like the News Quiz.

For the changes, and against

Alan Coren, humorist:"I identify Radio 4 as a constituency, or a country, more than a radio station."

Janet Suzman, writer and campaigner: "Leave Radio 4 alone. There is nothing quite like that in the whole world. Why make it like the dumbing- down radio stations?"

Steve Barnett, lecturer in media studies:"We must rely on the good judgement and integrity of the controller."

Iris Murdoch, writer: "Keep it old-fashioned ... don't bring it up to date."

Brian Sewell, art critic: "Most of people who listen to Radio 4 are museum pieces. I am a museum piece. It is going to be spoilt if it is changed. Just get rid of the cricket and Kaleidoscope and I'll be content."

Anita Brookner, writer:"I want more seriousness ... more talks, more lectures ... more information basically about the world."

Research by Agnes Severin

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Scientists believe Mercury is coated in billions of years’ worth of carbon dust, after being ‘dumped on’ by passing comets
science
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executives

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of Europe's leading prov...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - East Region - OTE £45,000

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor