Sunday 6 November 2011, 20:00
The World at One radio news studio gallery, 2002
From Monday, the programme will be extended to 45 minutes - and as a result the presenter's payoff will change. Of course, it's not the first time that the duration has been altered. In 1998, the then Radio 4 controller, James Boyle, cut the duration of The World at One - or WATO as we call it - from 40 minutes to 30 minutes and moved the Archers from 1.40pm to 2.00pm.
Some people complain that there is too much news already on Radio 4, but our audience is at record levels with a weekly reach of 3.3m and around 1.4m listening to WATO each day. There seems to be a real appetite to find out what's happening in the world and for us to explain it.
As Gwyn Williams has said, the faster development of stories following Today (especially now that Parliament sits in the morning) means there simply isn't enough time in 30 minutes to cover the full news agenda, both foreign and domestic.
The programme was extended to an hour throughout the general election campaign and in what has been an incredibly dramatic year - with the economic troubles at home and in the eurozone; the Arab uprising; and the summer riots - we've extended WATO a number of times on an ad hoc basis.
My intention is that the programme will continue to be the home for strong, news-making interviews, analysis and discussion. However, too often at the moment, the programme feels boxed in by its duration. I've lost count of the number of times I or my colleagues have had to talk into Martha Kearney's ear telling her to wrap up an interview or move on to the next item, even though we know there are questions we'd like to have asked our guests. I understand how frustrating listeners find this and the extension to 45 minutes will allow the interviews and discussions time to breathe just a bit more.
I'm hoping we'll also be able to use the extra time to do a slightly broader range of stories. Audience research suggests that you really appreciate what we do at the moment - comprehensive, in-depth coverage of domestic, political and international news - and would welcome more of the same. But that there's also demand from our listeners for greater reporting of technology issues, business and economics news, and arts and culture.
I would also like to experiment with using different formats on the programme - being creative in our production and treatment, with more outside broadcasts and more reporting (by Martha, Shaun Ley and Edward; by the dedicated reporters we have on news programmes; and by the great team of BBC correspondents in the UK and around the world).
Do let us know what you think.
Nick Sutton is the editor of The World at One
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