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Feedback: Radio Science

Friday 21 June 2013, 15:34

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Editor's note: Feedback is available to listen to online or to download and keep.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006slnx
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/feedback
Next month a new science series begins on Radio 4, which should be the cue for rejoicing amongst those who enjoy such programmes.
However judging by the Feedback postbag there is a lot of mourning going on as well, because the new programme is replacing the much-loved Material World. Also dematerialising, at least for the moment, is the long running series presenter, Quentin Cooper.  This week on Feedback I talked to the BBC executive responsible for these changes, Deborah Cohen, Editor of the radio Science Unit.
CLIP
It’s not for me to comment on whether Deborah Cohen has made the right decision, but perhaps I can add a couple of thoughts.
First, unlike some of her colleagues, Ms Cohen never ducks an interview and will always come on Feedback even when she knows she’ll have to face a lot of criticism.
Second, I suspect that she would have liked to have kept both programmes, but given the shortage of space on Radio 4 doesn’t have that option.
That shortage is due in no small part to the dominance of news and current affairs. Just have a look at the Radio Times and see how much of the network is given over to news programmes. Add other mainstays such as Womans Hour, You and Yours and the Archers, and there isn’t much airtime left.
Then there is the problem of creative competition. In science radio there is hardly any.
This network is unique, but there is a downside. Some good shows have to come to a premature end to make space for new formats. Yet those new shows have to succeed almost immediately. There are few if any other places to experiment. It alright talking about the “right to fail”, but if you exercise that option too frequently you will likely be defenestrated along with your programmes.
A few years ago it was hoped that Channel 4 might develop a thriving radio arm, but that came to nothing. Then it was hoped there would be money available for significant original productions on Radio 4’s digital sister station 4 Extra. There isn’t.
So if you cancel a long running popular series and dispense with its much loved presenter you are certainly taking a brave decision, with no guarantee the new show will be a success.  Good Luck Deborah Cohen! I look forward to your next appearance of Feedback.
Finally just a reminder that you set the agenda on Feedback, and that you can write to us about anything to do with BBC radio, network or local. That includes policy as well as programmes.
Listen to this week's Feedback or download it as a podcast
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b02x9f59
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/feedback
Read all of Roger's Feedback blog posts
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio4/tags/Feedback
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Editor's note: Listen to this week's Feedback or download the podcast

A round-bottom flask The appliance of science - Radio 4 is changing it's science programmes soon.

Next month a new science series begins on Radio 4, which should be the cue for rejoicing amongst those who enjoy such programmes.

However judging by the Feedback postbag there is a lot of mourning going on as well, because the new programme is replacing the much-loved Material World. Also dematerialising, at least for the moment, is the long running series presenter, Quentin Cooper. This week on Feedback I talked to the BBC executive responsible for these changes, Deborah Cohen, Editor of the radio Science Unit.

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Deborah Cohen, Editor of the radio Science Unit discusses changes to her programmes.

It’s not for me to comment on whether Deborah Cohen has made the right decision, but perhaps I can add a couple of thoughts.

First, unlike some of her colleagues, Ms Cohen never ducks an interview and will always come on Feedback even when she knows she’ll have to face a lot of criticism.

Second, I suspect that she would have liked to have kept both programmes, but given the shortage of space on Radio 4 doesn’t have that option.

That shortage is due in no small part to the dominance of news and current affairs. Just have a look at the Radio Times and see how much of the network is given over to news programmes. Add other mainstays such as Womans Hour, You and Yours and The Archers, and there isn’t much airtime left.

Then there is the problem of creative competition. In science radio there is hardly any.

This network is unique, but there is a downside. Some good shows have to come to a premature end to make space for new formats. Yet those new shows have to succeed almost immediately. There are few if any other places to experiment. It alright talking about the “right to fail”, but if you exercise that option too frequently you will likely be defenestrated along with your programmes.

A few years ago it was hoped that Channel 4 might develop a thriving radio arm, but that came to nothing. Then it was hoped there would be money available for significant original productions on Radio 4’s digital sister station 4 Extra. There isn’t.

So if you cancel a long running popular series and dispense with its much loved presenter you are certainly taking a brave decision, with no guarantee the new show will be a success. Good Luck Deborah Cohen! I look forward to your next appearance on Feedback.

Finally just a reminder that you set the agenda on Feedback, and that you can write to us about anything to do with BBC radio, network or local. That includes policy as well as programmes.

Listen to this week's Feedback or download it as a podcast

Read all of Roger's Feedback blog posts


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    IMHO, in this weeks edition, I must say that I found it very unfair to compare EIGHT YEARS of "hush money"[1] and another EIGHT YEARS of "DMI failure"[2] and then to suggest it could fund so-and-so service for ONE YEAR.

    If you spread the money over the rein of Mark Thompson, as it were, it come out as a waste of £15.75m a year. That's JUST 18% of BBC Radio 4's content budget. [3]

    In addition, it also (IHMO, of course) sloppy journalism to constantly refer to ALL BBC money as "licence-fee payers' money" as the BBC UK does not just receive money from the fee:

    £222m comes from BBC Worldwide and £277m from Grant-in-aid. [3]

    You could quite easily argue the other way that that the money "wasted" on these two areas of spending was totally funded from BBC Worldwide.

    [1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10128702/BBC-spent-28m-of-licence-fee-payers-money-gagging-500-staff.html

    [2] Started September 2004. http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/review_report_research/vfm/digital_media_initiative.pdf

    [3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/annualreport/2012/exec/overview/finances/

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2.

    It will come as a great blow to licence-fee payers that so much of their money has been used to hush former employees. The size and scale of these "compromise agreements" is a clear sign that there is an excess of money sloshing around the BBC. It is incumbent upon Lord Patten to state unequivocally that the BBC will not pay anyone for his or her silence, especially in cases involving allegations of bullying and sexual harassment. All allegations of bullying and sexual harassment at the BBC need to be rigorously investigated and any failure to do so raises serious questions about the integrity of those at the top. Are the people who authorized these hush payments of up to £500,000 still in post?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 3.

    The decision to ditch Material World and Quentin Cooper seems a strange one. If there was a concern that the programme was broadcast live, then could it not have gone out recorded with the same presenter? The lack of science programmes on Radio 4 is obvious, but choosing which programmes to ditch or shorten to make way for more science would have a lot of arty types up in arms. I would torpedo the Archers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    Quentin could have an annoying style at times, particularly 'pod people' but a presenter with such breadth of science knowledge will be hard to find.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 5.

    What about the BBC Messageboard scandal? Millions down the drain on that wasted exercise (and it wasn't the contributors fault)

    I am aware that Mr./Dr./Professor/Rev/Ms Newlach is a big radio fan, so recommend they check out last night’s edition of The Archive Hour which featured radio listening memories. However, why didn’t the programme talk to some ordinary radio listeners for their radio memories? All the guests were southern, extremely posh – and very famous. Some of them struggled to actually recall the names of R4 programmes!. No mention of the radio genius Mr. Christopher Dunkley, the desperately missed – and highly respected - Ms. Jeanine McMullen (RIP), The hypnotic and reassuring voice of the mighty Mr. Douglas Stuart – a sure cure for anyone on the verge of a nervous breakdown if ‘O’/’A’ levels/degree exams were on the horizon…….Ms. Caroline Raphael’s important interview with Mr Bolton when she admitted that she wasn’t likely to become a great actress. Ms. R. certainly gave us some great Friday plays (Chicago Conspiracy Trial, The Hanging……) when she occupied the position of commissioning editor for drama and comedy. The late David Munrow’s superbly inspiring music programmes……the late Derek Jewel’s fascinating radio pronunciations on R3……..

    No mention of tuning into Radio Caroline (NORTH) on a Codar CR45 TRF [1], with The Pregnant Insomnia’s ‘Wallpaper’[2] playing in the background as one devoured page after page of Exchange & Mart, wondering if one would ever own a Lafayyete radio receiver [3] – possibly the most romantic radio receiver name of all time?

    Newlach will be interested in the comments made about the Archers

    P.S. Why not devote an edition of Archive Hour to the professional lives and experiences of radio producers – both working and upper-class (Female and Male) and covering all radio backgrounds?

    References

    [1] See: http://vintageradio.me.uk/military/cr45_info.htm

    [2] See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn_kTXCnwHY

    [3] See: http://www.ohio.edu/people/postr/bapix/LafArt_60.htm

 

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