Nicholas Lezard: Radio 4: the station for Today, and forever

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The Independent Online

Here's some good news: Radio 4 has posted its highest audience figures since its foundation in 1967. Between March and June of this year a record 10.85m people tuned in, including a bumper audience for the Today programme. Reports about the death of civilisation have been greatly exaggerated.

There are one or two explanations. Radio 4's current and previous controllers made the wise decision not to fiddle about with its formula. Schedules have remained largely the same, and its basic, blindingly simple idea – intelligent talk, or funny talk, or interesting drama, delivered without condescension – is also unchanged. The station endures, and waits for its audience to grow up. And they do. Barring some national catastrophe, its audience will grow and grow as long as it keeps on delivering the goods. A lot of people do not really want jingles, adverts, gossip and sloppy English all the time, and they want them less and less as time goes by.

And its longevity is hard-wired, largely by the fact of it being an aural rather than a visual medium. Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor may look a bit older than they did in The Goodies, but they sound as young and funny as ever on I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue. Radio 4's staff are dedicated, its mission liberal in the best sense. Be proud.