The new Radio 4: all your questions answered by the other Jimmy Boyle

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The Independent Online
OF ALL the changes to the face of Radio 4, the one that seems to have attracted the most attention is the brand new programme called "James Boyle Tries To Explain The Radical Changes We Have Brought to Radio 4 Which Are The Most Far-Reaching For A Generation, Even Though Nothing Has Really Been Altered Much", which is now going out daily on Radio 4.

If you have missed this programme and don't know when it can be heard because of all these changes to Radio 4, I am bringing you a transcript of this morning's programme, which was a repeat of yesterday's...

Caller: Mr Boyle, I like all your changes and I think you've brought a breath of fresh air to the schedules...

Boyle: Thank you...

Caller: But there is one change that puzzles me. I am a great fan of The Archers and I can't understand why you have moved it to a 2am slot. For many of us, this is the middle of the night.

Boyle: Well, I can understand that a lot of regular Archers listeners will find this move difficult to begin with, but there is a good reason for it. You see, our research shows that audience figures take a sudden and very disappointing dip after midnight, until sometimes we have very low ratings indeed at the 3 or 4am mark. Our research also shows us that The Archers is one of the most popular programmes on air, with one of the loyalest audiences, so our strategy is to place The Archers at a time when it will prove a lure, not only to stay up late, but to carry on listening to the next programme.

Caller: As a matter of interest, what is the next programme?

Boyle: The Shipping Forecast.

Caller: Why couldn't you leave The Archers where it is and move the Shipping Forecast to a daytime slot?

Boyle: Because our research shows that the audience for the Shipping Forecast, which is very small but loyal, prefers to listen in the middle of the night.

Caller: Why?

Boyle: To keep awake and prevent their ships from running into things and sinking. Next?

Caller: Mr Boyle, you have said publicly that Radio 4 listeners are choosers. They are selective.

Boyle: That is so.

Caller: You have also said that you want to lure Radio 4 listeners to listen to certain slots by dangling popular programmes in front of them so that they will listen to the succeeding programmes.

Boyle: Certainly.

Caller: How can Radio 4 listeners be choosers AND easily lured? It doesn't make sense.

Boyle: Well, our research shows that Radio 4 listeners come from the upper age end of the population. They are, to put it in English, older. This means that they can't move as fast as the rest of us, so when their favourite programme ends, it may be four or five minutes before they have clambered or manoeuvred their way across the room to the radio. By that time they may have got interested in the next programme.

Caller: Or, of course, forgotten what they were coming across the kitchen to do, and go back again without switching off.

Boyle: I'm glad you said that. I didn't feel it was right for me to say so. Next?

Caller: Mr Boyle, are you the same Jimmy Boyle from Glasgow who was put in prison for murder and then became a sculptor?

Boyle: No, I don't think so.

Caller: Is that why you kept your name as James rather than Jimmy? To avoid confusion?

Boyle: Yes. We've done a lot of research into this one, and we found that people didn't particularly want Radio 4 run by an ex-murderer and sculptor. Next, please.

Caller: Why are you making the Today programme even longer?

Boyle: Our research shows that it is one of the most popular programmes on air.

Caller: Might it not be that it is only the listening slot that is popular? Might it not be that people tend to switch on the radio for the news, weather etc, more at that time than any other and will listen to anything that happens to be on, whether it is the Today programme or not? Might I also suggest that if the Today programme were truly popular, people would call it Today, and not the Today programme? Might I suggest that you try moving the Today programme to the Shipping Forecast slot and see which gets the better audience?

Boyle: No, you may not. Next!

Caller: Until recently I was working in Radio 4 programme production, but I was made redundant to help pay for all this revamping of Radio 4...

Boyle: Next!

You can get a transcript of this programme if you send lots of money to the BBC.