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Radio 5 'going out with a bang': Station wins praise but no reprieve

LIZ FORGAN, managing director of BBC Radio, said yesterday that Radio 5, which is being axed in April to make way for a news and sports network, was producing 'stunning programmes' and was 'definitely going out with a bang, not a whimper'.

Asked whether this meant Radio 5 should be kept going, Ms Forgan said its attempt to cater for three sectors - children, sports fans and schools - made it impossible to build a proper audience. Though the programmes had always been marvellous, nothing had changed to reverse the decision. Pat Ewing, Radio 5's controller, expects to leave the BBC.

Ms Forgan, speaking at the launch of BBC Radio's New Year programme, said she hoped that a lot of the staff, especially those making drama programmes, would transfer to other jobs in radio. However, the new recruitment at present is for journalists to staff the news and sport network, and very few programmes, if any, are expected to transfer to other channels.

New Year programmes from Radio 5 include a dramatisation of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, The Wind in the Willows, starring Willie Rushton as Mr Toad, and The Jungle Book, to celebrate the book's centenary. Robert Kee is also continuing his history of the 20th century, A Century Remembered, with a look at the 1930s.

Radio 3, praised by Ms Forgan for its efforts to become more accessible, is starting a new afternoon programme for 15 to 16-year-olds called The Music Machine. Beginning on 4 January, it will examine all sorts of music - including folk, pop and rock - treating them as equals. There is also a festival of John Tavener's music during the weekend of 21-24 January.

Radio 1 - whose new line-up, featuring Steve Wright on the breakfast show, begins on 10 January - is running a special documentary, Not Fade Away, celebrating 30 years of Top of the Pops. There are also documentaries on the Beatles, the role of women in pop music and an archive selection of The Who and The Smiths.

Radio 1's audience, 17 million a week in September 1993, is 2 million down on the 1992 figure - a trend the changes are not expected to reverse.

Radio 4 is dramatising Oliver Twist, beginning on Thursday 3 February at 10am on FM, while its classic serial for January will be Sir Walter Scott's Waverley, set in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Janet Suzman is to star in a six-part dramatisation of the biography of George, Lord Byron.

There are also new game shows: Darling, You Were Marvellous and Women's Troubles, chaired by Frances Edmonds, which gives panellists the chance to be agony aunts.