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Are You Cheating On Us?

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Jeff Zycinski | 20:01 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Often, when I meet a listener, he or she will enthuse about their favourite programmes and tell me how much they enjoy listening to the station. I'm chuffed and usually take all the credit for myself. I explain how the producers and presenters are mere instruments of my mighty talent. I call that 'leadership'.

Inevitably, though, there comes a point when that same listener will start to look a little shame-faced, lose eye contact and, with shuffling feet, will say something like this:

"I'm sorry about this, but sometimes I turn off Radio Scotland and listen to that music show on Radio 2."

At that point I blame the programme-makers. I call that 'collective responsibility'.

At other times, I will get an angry letter from a listener, berating me for a scheduling decision that clearly proves that either I have parted company with too many brain cells or else am being manipulated by shadowy forces elsewhere. Those letters often conclude with this sort of threat:

"That's it. I've had enough. It's Radio 4 for me from now on!"

My problem with both of these statements is that there's an underlying assumption that I don't want people to listen to other BBC radio stations. In fact, the opposite is true and there are a number of reasons for that. No, really.

The first clue is in my job title which people often think is Head of BBC Radio Scotland. It's not. It's Head of Radio, BBC Scotland. That's because I also have responsibility for our production teams who make programmes for all of the BBC's radio networks. So, of course I want people to listen to them. Especially the jazz on Radio 3, which is brilliant. Not that I have favourites.

Secondly, the diverse schedule of programmes offered by BBC Radio Scotland means that it's most unlikely (but not impossible) that anyone would enjoy every one of our programmes. As I'm forever telling our incredulous sports team, some perfectly rational people don't actually like football. That's why we split frequencies in the evenings and offer an alternative schedule of music programmes.

The truth is, BBC Radio Scotland listeners are a promiscuous lot. I'm sorry, but you are. You'll push buttons, turns dials and click on your mouse about a dozen times a day in your pursuit of choice. Don't deny it. I've seen the audience research. I also know where you live.

And where do you wander off to? Mainly it's BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2. (Some of you also listen to commercial radio and you guys are coming off my Christmas card list.)

But here's the third reason why I applaud those who explore the full range of services that the BBC offers in Scotland. Quite simply, you're getting your money's worth from the licence fee...and that's before we even talk about television (which I'm still hoping will go away one day).

Imagine that every time you bought a newspaper you were allowed free copies of all the other newspapers in the shop too. You might not have time to read them all. You might not even have the muscle-strength to carry them all, but just imagine you were allowed the choice.

That's how the licence fee works. You might not want everything the BBC offers, but you pays your money and you takes your choice.

So the next time you find yourself seduced by the charms of Mister Moyles or Mister Wogan, please be assured that you have our blessing. You're not cheating on us. This is an open relationship.

Just remember... they'll never love you as much as we do.


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