Radio 4 gets ready for fury of Middle England

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The Independent Online
MONTHS of speculation over the future of Radio 4's programming will end today when the new schedules are unveiled by the BBC, writes Steve Boggan.

The corporation has faced fury from some sections of its Middle England audience over plans to axe many well-loved programmes, but Matthew Bannister, Director of BBC Radio, promised that listeners would not be disappointed.

"It will be good to talk about what is actually going to be in the Radio 4 schedule rather than what is not," he said. "We have some great programmes on the way."

Mr Bannister and James Boyle, the Radio 4 Controller, have faced a storm of protest from listeners concerned about the axing of programmes or changes in broadcast timings of others.

Favourites to be abandoned include Kaleidoscope, Afternoon Shift, Sport On 4, Breakaway, Week Ending, Does He Take Sugar? Mediumwave, Call Ed Stourton, Medicine Now, Science Now and Going Places.

Among those whose timings will change are the Today programme, which will run from 6am through to 9am, knocking Farming Today and Yesterday in Parliament from their regular slots.

A final decision on the future of Yesterday in Parliament will be made by BBC governors when they meet on Wednesday, following concerns raised by politicians.

Two other favourites, The Archers and Woman's Hour, presented by Jenni Murray, are also facing changes. The Archers will gain a sixth weekly episode, on Sunday evenings, but the running time of each edition will be cut by two minutes.

Mr Boyle said the changes, which will come into operation on 1 April, are being made to stem the tide of listeners swirching to other stations.

Research has shown that many people switch off as soon as the Today programme finishes. The BBC intends to hold on to these listeners by introducing new, livelier programmes.