Radio 4 silences `Anderson Country'

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The Independent Online
Auntie yesterday finally conceded that its traditional audience knows best. In an announcement to lift many a Home Counties' heart, Radio 4 confirmed it was scrapping Anderson Country, the weekday afternoon programme which provoked unprecedented c riticism from listeners.

Gerry Anderson, whose one-year contract as presenter expires at the end of next month, is at home in Northern Ireland, suffering from flu, and is not expected to host the show again.

Instead the five-day-a-week slot is being renamed the Afternoon Shift and will be presented on different days by Laurie Taylor and Daire Brehan. The decision to end the show undoubtedly throws into question the BBC's policy of introducing new regional voices and informal presenters to Radio 4.

Chris Dunkley, presenter of Feedback, the programme which airs listener's complaints, said yesterday: "We had an enormous postbag. People really were in high dudgeon about it. They were saying stop treating us as a social experiment. We've heard John Birt saying that the BBC mustn't super-serve the middle classes. But just leave us Radio 4. They objected to the patronising tone that they should accept something different when they are used to listening to more than just pap."

Radio 4 audiences, heavily skewed towards the over 40s, have become famous for their proprietorial feelings about the network. Their most important victory was two years ago when plans to give Radio 4 longwave over to a rolling news service had to be abandoned when furious listeners threatened to march on Broadcasting House.

So, is the BBC contrite? Michael Green, controller of Radio 4, said: "This past year has shown us that presenting this kind of programme five days a week is too heavy a burden for any one person. We have learnt a great deal from Anderson Country and are extremely grateful to Gerry for all he has done to get it off the ground".

The BBC stressed audiences for the show were rock solid.

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