Changing Radio 4? Over to you, John

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The Independent Online
James Boyle, boss of Radio 4, is rumoured to be axing some of the channel's best-loved programmes, and people have been speculating about which ones are due for the chop. I refuse to take part in such idle gossip. I prefer to speculate about how the programmes themselves would deal with the matter. These, for instance ...

From "Start the Week".

Bragg: So what you're saying is that we are genetically predisposed to do less thinking between nine and 10 in the morning?

Geneticist: Yes.

Bragg: And any programme that sets out to have a good intellectual discussion about the origin of consciousness between 9 and 10 is barking up the wrong tree?

Geneticist: Yes. Especially on a Monday morning. It's the worst possible time for it.

Bragg: That's tosh. Monday morning between nine and 10 is a great time for the cut and thrust of debate. This programme does it all the time.

Geneticist: Think how much better it would do it if we were all awake and not frazzled by Monday morning rush hour.

Bragg: That's tosh.

Enter Jonathan Miller.

Miller: Did I hear someone mention the word "microneurosurgery"?

From the "Today" programme. John Humphrys: A decision is likely to be reached soon about whether Today should be extended or curtailed. Some say it is the foremost channel of morning news. Others say it is a crude pantomime of confrontation and disagreement which enlightens nobody. In the studio we have the producer of Today and in the radio car we have Ridley Pallister, radio critic. Now, John, you've been producing Today for how long?

Producer: Five years. And it is a five years I am very proud of.

Humphrys: Pallister?

Pallister: The last five years have seen the decline of Today from a thoughtful news programme into a worthless shouting match.

Producer: That's absolute rubbish!

Pallister: No, it's not. And everyone knows it but you and James Boyle!

Producer: Today gets more than 2 million listeners. In the evening the Radio 4 audience has shrunk to barely 200,000. We must be doing something right.

Pallister: You've got the right slot, that's all. Most people automatically switch on radios for the news early in the morning as they get up and move around the house. Whatever programme was on then would get a good audience. It doesn't mean it's a good programme. Just a good slot.

Producer: That's rubbish!

Humphrys: I wish we had more time for this fascinating discussion, but alas...

From "Midweek".

Libby Purves: And today's special birthday guest is a man who has listened to every edition of Midweek since it started! But first let's go round our guests and see how many of them have had birthdays in the last year or two...

From "Medium Wave".

Hanna: It's been a medium sort of week for Medium Wave. Lots of big stories, but the biggest of all for us has been the story in several of the broadsheets that Medium Wave may be waving goodbye. This poses the question: should the radio be reviewing the press and media at all? If not, where will I be getting the chance to chair another programme? Simon?

Hoggart: Can't help you there, Vincent.

Hanna: Cecil Parkinson?

Parkinson: Hello, everyone! Nice to be back!

Hanna: And so goes this medium week. See you soon, or not, as the case may be.

From "Loose Ends".

Sherrin: And the mystery noise was, of course, the sound of the axe falling on The Afternoon Shift. (Hysterical laughter from guests.) Right then, let me see, ah yes, Jenny Constable, you're appearing in a revival of The First Noel, the Sheridan Morley musical about Noel Coward...

Constable: That's right, the Domino Theatre, from Friday.

Sherrin: Very good, got the plug in, now do tell us, have you got any funny stories about this programme which would help to keep it on the airwaves?

Constable: No, but I was once in a lift with Laurence Olivier, and I said to him: "Are you going up or down?" and he said, "Actually, at my age there isn't really a lot of difference!" (More hysterical laughter.)

From "The Moral Maze". Buerk: Michael Mansfield, were you impressed by any of the witnesses who wanted The Moral Maze axed?

Mansfield: I rather agreed with the man who said that this wasn't a discussion programme at all, but a soap opera with rather crudely drawn stereotypes as characters.

David Starkey: Oh, that's just so stupid and anti-intellectual. Give me an example!

Mansfield: Certainly. There used to be a character called Edward Pearce who was written out after clashes with you.

Starkey: That's preposterous! We aren't stereotypes!

Buerk: Oh, shut up, you pompous old queen!

Starkey: That comes well from a jumped-up news reader!

Etc, etc. Full transcript of programmes on request.