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Feedback - Radio 4 Extra: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Friday 20 May 2011, 14:48

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Harry H. Corbett as Harold Steptoe and Wilfrid Brambell as Albert Steptoe

The BBC digital station Radio 7 has changed its name to Radio 4 Extra, but some Feedback listeners don't like the smell.

Amaechi Ihetu told us that she was 'disappointed that listeners have lost a true gem'. Tina Taylor wrote 'I don't want to hear repeats of Desert Island Discs'.

Fred Whalley was among a number of listeners who were sad to lose the children's programming that they had enjoyed on 7, and even some Archers addicts claim to be indifferent to Ambridge Extra. Others, like Galen White, question the wisdom of putting the Ambridge Extra omnibus straight after the Archers Omnibus, an obvious ploy to get addicts to cross from 4 to 4 Extra.

Well these are early days and the retitled network has only been broadcasting for a few weeks, but the BBC Trust was clear that something had to be done to improve the size of audience. The last figures suggest Radio 7 had a 0.6% share of listening, making it a vulnerable target at a time of belt tightening.

On the other hand the Trust's David Liddiment made it clear, in a Feedback interview earlier in the year, that he didn't want the network to change that much and that 'most of the programming (on 4 Extra) would be recognisable to a Radio 7 audience.'

There are benefits to the change of name. The Controller of 4 Extra is Gwyneth Williams, Controller of Radio 4, and this means that there can be more complementary programmes between the two networks and more trails for 4 Extra on its Big Sister network.

The Head of Programming of 4 Extra is Mary Kalemkerian who did the same job for Radio 7. On Wednesday she came into the Feedback studio to talk down the line to two listeners. Rae Streets was in Cambridge and John Shellard in Sheffield. They did not pull their punches.

Feedback is now on the air until the end of July.

It's likely to be a long hot summer for BBC management as it spells out the detailed consequences of the cut in the licence fee, and tries to get approval from the BBC Trust, and ultimately you, for the changes that they think unavoidable.

More salami slicing or cuts in actual services?

We'll soon find out. Make sure you let us know what you think. Leave a comment on the blog or get in touch via the Feedback web site.

Roger Bolton is presenter of Feedback

  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, produced by Karen Pirie, get in touch with Feedback, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Feedback is on Twitter. Follow @BBCR4Feedback.
  • Picture info: "Steptoe and Son: S5 29/01/1970 © BBC Picture shows - Harry H. Corbett as Harold Steptoe and Wilfrid Brambell as Albert Steptoe pictured here in the junkyard in series five of 'Steptoe and Son'." You can hear Steptoe and Son on Radio 4 Extra.
  • RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) and is the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK. It is jointly owned by the BBC and the RadioCentre on behalf of the commercial sector. Details of the Radio 7 .6% share of listening quoted above can be found here. By way of comparison Radio 4's figure for the same period is 12.30%.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Pre-recorded exchanges between selected listeners and complacent producers just won't cut it. Why does Feedback not take the plunge and let listeners call live? The programme is too short for this at the moment, but if you really want to know what we think you'll have to take the Any Answers approach. I've tried sending an e-mail and, as with all the BBC feedback avenues, this is a dead end, resulting in a standard, automated response and absolutely no follow-up.
    By the way, my user name is merely an expression of my contempt for the irritating form filling nonsense which we have to go through to make any contact with the BBC these days; there was a time when one could call and speak to a person at the BBC.

  • Comment number 2.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    After listening to that piece I think Mary Kalemkerian would've fitted in rather well at Dunkirk....defending a hopeless position. Either that or she was trying to put a shine on a certain substance.

    Good to know too that, as Head of Programming, she actually went and listened to the weekly 1am slot to see what the problem was. Don't listen to your own station much then? Mary, try listening to the weekend 1am slot. I could jump in a plane and skywrite the word "Dire", but the sky just ain't big enough.

    It's also nice to know how important Radio 4 listeners are to you. I hope they enjoy the mutation that's been specifically created for them.

    As a 7 listener i have this mental picture of me watching the plane crash that is 4 Extra, then walking away from the wreckage, scratching my head at the inanity of the pilots who slammed it into the ground in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    emailheaven: "Feedback should be repeated on Radio 4 extra because its broadcasts in a bad slot on Radio 4"

    Now the station has been re-branded and turned into R4's add-on, it might as well do the job properly when it comes to airing listeners' views - especially now that the old radio messageboards have been dumped in favour of one-line twittering.

    I suggest FEEDBACK EXTRA: Live calls, live response, year round. One piece of CHEAP programming the BBC does owe its listeners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    What is going on with Radio 4 Extra? Last Saturday and this Saturday at 4 o'clock John le Carre adaptations were aired. Next week The Spy Who Came in from the Cold week is on at 11 o'clock on Thursday morning. This is no good to me. I thought Radio 4 Extra wanted to attract new listeners!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    We were told many times that radio 7 was the fastest growing and most listened to digital radio station, so shouldn't the trust have got behind it and advertised it now we have been told that the first quarter of this year radio 7 achieved record figures, so why take your best product in this genre and mess with it so less people want it and then say we did it for you is an insult , when 4 extra is canceled due to lower figures will that also be for us

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    In response to psiops' #6: Radio 7 used to be the fastest growing station (see graphs). Now it is 6Music. The 'record figures' reported for Radio 7 are for reach only, not hours. Trends in either reach or hours for 4X will not become apparent until the Q2 figures are released in early August. BBC management's view of the success of 4X appears to be confined to numbers, specifically, increasing its reach by 50% over the next 3 years, i.e. 1.5M. What is lacking is any management statement on how its success should be assessed in editorial ('content') terms.

    And now a whinge: accompanying the Smiley repeat this afternoon was a trailer for an interview between Mark Lawson and John le Carre. The trailer was drowned out by some awful inappropriate music obscuring what was being said - it was tacky, disrespectful and very unprofessional.


  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    6 music didn't they try to shut that station down?
    Maybe that is why they rebranded 7 , so people wouldn't complain and when 4 extra gets shut down the listeners would think its a good thing and all go to radio 4

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I miss radio7 very much. The drama category in particular offered great variety, the programmes changed much more frequently than is the case now. Radio4 Extra has offered a stodgy diet of programs about wars, many programs based on "real life", many very dull compared to radio7, and they stay on the schedule for ever. There are too many heavily worthy programs now, the pace is slow, the topics depressing and sometimes distressing. Radio 7 offered lively, wonderful programming which I found invigorating and entertaining. I hope very much that Radio 4 Extra will review the drama category in particular and source its programs from the same sources as Radio 7 used to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I'm sorry I thought Mary's performance on Feedback was very unconvincing .When are you going to do something about the 1am slot at weekends ? We used to have a play, now we get the dire Harrisin Keeler !

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Caroline Raphael's explanation on why music credits do not appear in R4 programme pages ("because the way our systems work") was alarming. If productions really are 'put to bed' before the music is added, then this implies that the producer has had little or no hand in choosing the music or has not been part of the music mixing process, both of which are essential parts of the creative and production processes. I can't quite believe this is the case, so the only real reason the music credits don't appear is producers not doing what they should be doing.

    Mind you, the R4X programme pages are so awful they don't even include cast lists.

    Clearly, your systems do not work.


  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I am one of many mourners of 7 I just cant believe the bbc have done this to such a popular Radio Station. I've said it before, PLEASE LISTEN TO YOUR LISTENERS.
    and why wasn't 7 advertised like 4x is now ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Message 11:

    "Caroline Raphael's explanation on why music credits do not appear in R4 programme pages ("because the way our systems work") was alarming."

    And why were BBC spies always testing the musical knowledge of serious R4 listeners with sneaky postings on the highly acclaimed R4 messageboards (that received little or no support from Radio 4 – especially the Desert Island Discs messageboard)? This was a good example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio4/F2766774?thread=6341348&post=76175045#p76175045 . It would have taken seconds for an enthusiastic – and committed - BBC R4 producer to place a posting on the R4 messageboards, detailing the title of the music introducing BOT. In fact Ms. Caroline Raphael used to post on the R4 messageboards (when she was commissioning editor for drama and comedy) and will recall well that contributors were always requesting such information. Additionally, Ms. Anna M.C also used to send on postings to the high-ups, requesting a conduit for such information. Mr. Bolton asked the same question, during one of his interviews with Ms. Gillian Hudson (when she was editor for the RT).

    On another subject, I should be most grateful if Ms. Pirie would reinvestigate the ‘Cambridge Blue Stocking’ feature. Poster ‘Jart’ took part in that interview (see messages 26, 28 and 29): http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio4/F2766774?thread=4995687&skip=0&show=20 but it’s clear that WH is still inherently Cambridge Blue Stocking for the following reasons:

    1. Ms. Murray pronounces the letter ‘a’ in the style of a very posh southern woman – yet she originates from Barnsley.
    2. Ms. Garvey was talking about women and the relationship they have with their vests in a recent newsletter - which is very Cambridge Blue Stocking
    3. Ms. Sheila McLennon admitted LIVE on POTW that she had never visited Erics ( a famous music club in Liverpool which was populated by girls who wore white stilettos). WH presented a feature on women who own white stilettos and one could sense from the pointy-nose comments that they regarded such females as rather common.
    4. Ms. Garvey made a snide comment some months ago about people who restore classic cars. Radio 4 loves academics (e.g. the dreadful Monkey Cage); it’s not keen on people who can actually make things – even when they do possess an engineering doctorate and sing ‘Hob Shoe Hob’ whilst changing their front wheel bearings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    It would be great if the Beeb would admit to being wrong. Radio 7 was great - all that was needed was to advertise it. I lost count of the number of times I introduced people to it, who'd never heard of Radio 7. Radio 4 Extra on the other hand is dire, dire, dire! Sorry for repeating myself 3 times - must have got that habit from 4 Extra. I don't want to listen to old DID over and over, thank you! I thought Mary K was dreadful and didn't really listen to the issues, she came across as being rather aggressive and kept telling us the "station is only 6 weeks old". Sorry but that just doesn't cut it with me. Like so many people I listen to R4 during the day and then used to turn over to R7 at night. Now it's a struggle to find anything on 4 Extra that I want to listen to/hasn't previously been on R4/wasn't on 4Extra earlier in the day. There is also the rights management issue - a shortage of podcasts. So there isnt much to keep me listening to 4Extra, I'm not into listening to the spin off of The Archers, and every day is Groundhog day. For example, at 1am - Miss Marple, repeated at 6am and AGAIN at 13.00. Oh - and is it on again at 20.00. WHY WON'T THEY LISTEN! R7 wasn't broken, just needed the profile to be raised!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    A few more weeks have gone by and no, 4extra is no better. 7 was great, why was it ditched? Ambridge Extra is tedious and for non-archer addicted radio drama fans it is hard to avoid them. Even switching between the two versions of R4 just means catching repeats of recent repeats of...
    A really bad downgrade of a good station - perhaps so that we won't complain when 4extra is finally ditched.


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