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Feedback: Closure of The Archers' Messageboard

Friday 15 February 2013, 15:54

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton, presenter of Feedback

When I was a BBC executive I had little patience with those who said that "there is so much more to the BBC than programmes." I was tempted to put a notice on my desk which said "It's the programmes, stupid".

That was in the pre digital age. Today I would still keep the notice but I'd consider adding a rider - "and the digital conversations that result."

My possible change of heart is due to my experience this week chairing a discussion on the upcoming closure of the Archers' message board and the furore that resulted.

On the face of it, not too many people are affected.

It's reckoned that only 1,000 people each week contribute to that message board and that perhaps around 10,000 visit it each week.

However for those people it is a vital part of their lives and many feel outraged that it is being taken away from them. The BBC says that with a reduced income  it has prioritised  providing new services such as the ability to download more Desert Island Discs programmes and 900 editions of Letter from America.

Twenty years ago not many people would have forecast that radio would still be central to so many millions of lives here in the UK and that its audiences would increase and not diminish.

(By the way I'm delighted that the BBC Director General  designate, Tony Hall, has decide to call the new boss of radio, Helen Boaden, Director of Radio, not of Audio and Music).

Who would have forecast that the Archers would remain so popular?

I'm a little surprised that I am feeling anxious for Lillian and even a little sorry for Matt. I do hope Elizabeth doesn't bankrupt herself over Lower Loxley, and dream that David will whisk Ruth off for a dirty weekend in Paris. (Actually I'm dreaming I would whisk Ruth off!)

I'm just off to explain to my wife it's not Ruth - it's the Geordie accent.

Roger Bolton


Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4.

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    Comment number 21.

    Feedback has been targeted by an internet flash mob hell-bent on forcing the BBC to retain a messageboard that is viewed by few. I urge the BBC not to be swayed by these keyboard generals and their foot soldiers. The "Village Hall" seems like a nonsense to me. If people want information on alcoholism, mental health issues, cats, dogs, birds etc they can simply type the words into a search engine.

    Making over 900 Letters From America available to download was a good idea. Alistair Cooke v Mustardland is no contest. The right decision would appear to have been taken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Afraid you have got it completely wrong. So called 'Mustarland' is not for the good of mankind, it is a jaundiced one side clique of ferule back-slappers who protect each other's point of view by manipulating a very pooor set of 'paid' modertors, who have the PC correct garbage written stone on what is left of their brains. Assuming they ever had any. Sooner it's closed the better. ONE BBC Messageboard, maybe, moderated by human beings 'may' be worthy, but I doubt it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Lawrence Jones (25) raises two very important questions:

    "Why wouldn’t Feedback help the R4 radio MB contributors when they appealed to the programme for help after the closure of these boards was announced? Why are Archers’ fans always regarded as a special case?"

    The truth is that criticism should be levelled at whoever took the anomalous decision to privilege the Archers' messageboard by extending its life. Many quality programmes lost their messageboards some time ago and their wasn't a pip out of Feedback. It seems that someone with backbone is now in post who will not be deterred from doing the right thing irrespective of the vexatious activities of cyber archers and veteran insiders.

    23 ourthora

    I suspect that a keyboard general is behind a link to this blog. Normally, the contributions to Feedback blog are of the highest order. I see clear evidence of a campaign designed to derail a fair decision taken by the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I thought Mr Smith acquitted himself well in the interview with Mr Bolton. He wasn't as fluid and relaxed as was, say, the Controller of Radio 2 who got a grilling a couple of weeks ago on the programme, but his argument was solid. Although he could not reveal the exact costs involved in maintaining "Mustardland" it nevertheless seems reasonable that in response to great budgetary pressure he chose to axe something that affects few listeners.

    It would not be difficult for someone to set up an online forum where people could discuss the Archers. Finally, too much time has been devoted to the Archers over the years on Feedback. In the interests of fairness and balance I suggest a moratorium on Archers stories until 2015!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I have been on these boards for years, but I must admit, given the plethora of social media that exists 'out there' for every interest group imaginable, why the BBC carried on hosting the forums that were non Archers related is beyond me. The boards are very , for the want of a better word, cliquey , they do not welcome new comers easily (see the controversy when the 5 live boards close) and if you don't like the things They do, well god help you.

    I think, on the whole, closure is well overdue.. Not a popular view, but popularity has never bothered me much.


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