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New digital programmes - and a new name for Radio 7

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Tim Davie Tim Davie | 12:00 PM, Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Roy Plomley and Noel Coward on Desert Island Discs in 1963, for the 21st anniversary of the programme.

Today we announced a series of new programmes which will be appearing on our digital radio stations. Also, we confirmed that we are changing the name of BBC Radio 7 to BBC Radio 4 Extra in April. You can find all the details in the press release.

Some people have questioned why we are altering a much-loved service: is this just unnecessary management tinkering? Firstly, let me offer a few words of reassurance. Radio 4 Extra will not be fundamentally different to Radio 7. The vast majority of the programming will remain much-loved archive productions, and we will continue to focus on comedy, drama and entertainment rather than offering news or current affairs. The primary reason for change is not to sell digital radios but to ensure more Radio 4 listeners are aware that we offer more of what they love. We'll be offering a more direct link between Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra. For example, we have confirmed that The Now Show and The News Quiz will offer extended versions on Radio 4 Extra featuring some of the bits that we have had to edit out to fit the programmes into their 30-minute slot on Radio 4.

As you can see we do not intend to take away people's favourite programmes from Radio 4. Perhaps the best example of how we see Radio 4 Extra working, as well as how we can see the digital world as offering a better service to listeners, is our plan for Desert Island Discs. On top of the ongoing Radio 4 programme, we will offer extended programmes on Radio 4 Extra as well as old editions. Meanwhile online we'll launch an amazing archive of 500 programmes that listeners can explore and download.

I hope that even if you have not caught Radio 7 yet, you do take the chance to take a listen to Radio 4 Extra when it launches in April.

Tim Davie is Director of Audio & Music

  • The picture shows Roy Plomley and his guest Noel Coward on the occasion of the twenty-first anniversary of Desert Island Discs in 1963. Coward had been on the list of guests drawn up by Plomley when he devised the programme in 1941.


  • Comment number 1.

    Whilst you're rebranding the whole station, can I ask you to look at the episode titles you use on the website? At the moment, many episode titles are the date of first broadcast on radio 7. For an archive station, this is highly confusing. For example, News Quiz episode b00yy62p is currently called "27/02/2011". However, it was first broadcast on Radio 4 on 18/02/2001 (and presumably recorded on the 17th). It would be a lot clearer if the date reflected when it was recorded / first broadcast, rather than its radio 7 début. It is a topical comedy show after all. Ideally the episode would be merged with it's radio 4 version (b00yjt91), that way the list of panelists might actually reflect who was on the show in that episode. ;)

  • Comment number 2.

    A personal plea...any chance of re-arranging the schedules once in a while?
    I like to listen to speech radio late at night, and it would be wonderful to have some readings and drama to listen to at 11pm-1am.
    I'm sure that some people enjoy the comedy and science fiction, but must it be on at bedtime year in and year out?
    Surely it wouldn't be so difficult to move everything forward by three hours, perhaps on a quarterly basis?
    (An added advantage to this would be not being woken by cbeebies at 7am, when the alarm goes off!)

  • Comment number 3.

    As the Asian Network is to close soon and the space on DAB is limited hence BBC Radio 7(soon to be Radio 4 Extra)is presently transmitted in mono and at a lower bitrate to other BBC national networks(unless you listen via Sky/Freeview)any chance you could use the extra space by losing the Asian Network so the bitrate of BBC Radio 7 is increased and it could finally be broadcast in stereo?

  • Comment number 4.

    @ The Great Gildersleeve

    The Trust has not given a final decision on the fate of Asian Network (it's due later this year). The network may be saved, or become an evening-only service.

  • Comment number 5.

    That's inetersting London Mark...
    If it closes I hope they'll consider my idea...

    If Asian Network is only on air at night on a limited bases...I hope Radio 4 Extra can increase it's bitrate when AN isn't on air...Radio 3 has sometimes taken some of Radio 4's allocated space and it has meant R4 is in mono usually when a concert is on Radio 3.

  • Comment number 6.

    Please can we go back to having comedy at 06:00?

  • Comment number 7.

    You say:
    For example, we have confirmed that The Now Show and The News Quiz will offer extended versions on Radio 4 Extra featuring some of the bits that we have had to edit out to fit the programmes into their 30-minute slot on Radio 4.

    Will this welcome extra material be available on the podcast?

  • Comment number 8.

    Ilove the period dramas that come up on Radio 7 and I note with pleasure that "Jane Eyre" starring Sophie Thompson and Ciaran Hinds is being broadcast again. I first heard this many years ago on Radio 4 and have been living in the hope that one day it will be released by BBC World Wide on CD. Please don't leave it too much longer. I'd like to be alive when it is released. Best. Ros

  • Comment number 9.

    I _love_ BBC (Radio) 7 as it is. I mostly listen on demand in iPlayer so I don't worry about the schedules, just programmes.

    I would regret the demise of it's quirky and friendly identity - the presenters, style, links, and extra information all work really well. Please don't lose too much of this when re-branding.

    However, the programme changes announced here and discussed on R4 all sound good. Does this mean we'll get (mostly) complete pieces of music on R4 extra's version of DID?


  • Comment number 10.

    @ The Great Gildersleeve

    I agree that it would be great to have Radio 4 Extra broadcast in stereo.

    But a couple of points:

    1) Radio 4 on DAB is broadcast in mono Mon-Fri (and weekend evenings) when 5 Live Sports Extra is on air. I think ensuring Radio 4 is permanently in stereo is a higher priority.

    2) When it comes to DAB and bandwidth, I fear that the extra space gained from the closure of the Asian Network, will be allocated to Radio 3. Past events suggest this will happen, a couple of years ago the Beeb temporarily reduced Radio 3 from 192k to 160k to allow Radio 4 to be broadcast permanently in stereo, the reaction amongst a highly vocal part of the audience was uproar and sadly this decision was soon overturned.


  • Comment number 11.

    It's a fair point that you make Dagi but then the DAB system that the UK has decided to promote is already out of date and in reality the next stage of DAB should be being rolled out(other countries are looking at using it)that might be a way around the problems we have over the limited space available.

    It will be interesting to see how they sort this out eventually.

  • Comment number 12.

    I already feel old as I admit I got my DAB radio for the launch of BBC7. I wish 4 Extra all the best, I be there for an extended News Quiz but is there any plan to improve the sound quality? Last night I went from Tony Hancock on Radio 7 to Radcliffe and Maconie on Radio 2 and the sound stayed the same. Lifeless, dull and tiring to listen to even though the programmes and the technology span over 50 years. We love the apologetic announcers saying the next show may be sounding its age. Don't worry, we listen on DAB. What else can go wrong?

  • Comment number 13.

    How about the Cbeebies Radio? It's a great service for the youngsters to listen to instead of staring at a telly. Will we be losing these programmes?

  • Comment number 14.

    Peekay, the information can be found here (under Children's Audio).

  • Comment number 15.

  • Comment number 16.

    What a dozy idea to rename radio7. Don't radio4 listeners know numbers higher than 4?

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't know why it could not have remained as Radio 7 or BBC Radio 7 and surely the problem of a lack of people knowing the station exists is the lack of publicity and cross promotion. They could have ven done a feature in the Radio Times which no doubt they will when the station changes it's name April.

    They often advertise Radio 1, 2, 4, 5 between tv shows on BBC1 and BBC2 so why not Radio 7?

    And what stories has the BBC Press Office been giving to the press etc...about Radio 7?

    We have been told for years that BBC7 was the most popular of the BBC DAB stations so it must've been doing something right.

  • Comment number 18.

    What a poor excuse to change the station's name. As if Radio 4 listeners were really so uninformed. Ridiculous.

    And it can't be cost effective surely? (my money remember) Whoever made this crass decision should be locked in a basement storage cupboard and never ever released.

  • Comment number 19.

    What an absolutely ridiculous idea to change the name. That isn't going to increase the listeners to the service. Programme quality and promotion is what will do that.

  • Comment number 20.

    sounds good Mr Davie - now all you have to do is make sure we can all receive DAB signal...

  • Comment number 21.

    Will BBC Radio 4 Extra still be commissioning original drama like BBC7 does, such as the Doctor Who radio series starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor? And will it still be buying in UK premières of foreign English-language programming, such as book readings that originate from US/Canadian networks as BBC7 does? These are both very valuable to BBC7. I pity anyone who annoys Doctor Who fans!

  • Comment number 22.

    I bought my digital radio years ago so I could listen to Radio 7. I can't believe that the new Radio 4 Extra will leave me anything other than dissatisfied. If the wall-to-wall Archers Fest that ruined the Radio 7 schedules recently is a sign of things to come, I fear for my radio listening.

  • Comment number 23.

    If theres no real change to the content, why change the name? No real change? I dont believe a word of it!

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hmmm... "Radio 4 Extra will not be fundamentally different to Radio 7."? "The vast majority of the programming..."? Somehow I'm not reassured by this. Radio 7 is already near perfect, whereas to me, Radio 4 is anything but - and I'm an ex-listener. If somethings not broken, don't fix it. And in the case of Radio 7, it's not only not broken, but functioning perfectly as far as we're concerned.

    I presume that this is simply part of the BBC's financial restructuring. Does the BBC actually care what its listeners and viewers think anymore?

  • Comment number 26.

    Are you still around? I'd have thought that the total rejection of your so-called radio strategy and the guilt at ripping off the licence fee payer for half a million quid a year would have forced you out by now.

  • Comment number 27.

    I started listening to Radio 7/whatever about 4 years ago but it didn't take long before I realised that the drama schedule in particular offered very little variety. The same series/programmes are repeated endlessly and with what seems to me only a few months in between reruns. I've lost track of the number of times crime dramas like Baldi and Cadfael have been repeated - and they're just the two that spring to mind. Same goes for classic drama. It's shame Henry James/Edith Wharton/Trollope etc etc weren't around to collect repeat fees. And while I can thank Radio 7 for introducing me to Sci-fi writers that I wouldn't otherwise have considered, there's only so many times you want to hear the same stories. These days I hardly listen to the station as there's very little on there that hasn't been broadcast 3-4 times already in the time I've been listening. If this latest marketing exercise results in a broader range of programmes than I'm all for it. I might even start listening again.

  • Comment number 28.

    Please keep Radio 7 as a separate station, with its own friendly, 'something for everyone', identity.

    The suggested new programmes are good, but why not run them on Radio 4 proper or Radio 7 under its current branding.

    After all BBC2 has longer editions of 'QI' and 'Have I got news for you' without having to be called BBC1 Extra.

  • Comment number 29.

    Please Tim would you be so good as to make sure BBC One Ceefax paegs 658 and 699 get updated to reflect the new Station Name, Radio 4 Extra, when the change happens

    By the way, is there any particlular reason why 1Xtra, 6Music, 5 Live Sprots Extra and BBC Asian Network schedules have never been published on Ceefax?

  • Comment number 30.

    What I find a bit odd is that there's nothing with detail to be found anywhere. When exactly is R4xtra being launched? The most detailed statement is "April", which is a rather broad statement. Judging from the Archers announcement today, it must be on the 5th April at the latest, but why do you not state somewhere "R4x is starting on x April"? Is this a state secret? Do I have to ask for a freedom of information act disclosure (or whatever they are called)...???

    What are the current plans for the schedule? Is there a sample schedule for a sample week somewhere? Will podcasts be made available? Questions, questions, questions, yet so few answers. Are you sure you want people to actually listen? In that case, I'm surprised at the lack of advertising and info...

  • Comment number 31.

    A personnal gripe about the current schedules is waking to the sound of the big toe! Maybe a more suitable time for it could be found. I certainly cannot imagine children rising early so as to listen at that time so I imgine it is placed there so that it can be recorded for the little dears. If that is so then it could be relocated to a more civilised time slot.

  • Comment number 32.

    Sadly I think the demise of Radio 7 is yet another example of the short-sightedness of BBC Radio management. They have clearly failed to promote the digital stations effectively - that's proved by the big increase in 6Music and Asian Network listenership. It was the publicity of the planned closure that brought these stations to the attention of the public.

    You say that "The primary reason for change is... to ensure more Radio 4 listeners are aware that we offer more of what they love." Well, you don't need to re-brand Radio 7 as 4 Extra in order to do that - you just need to promote it! As noted by srutherford above, BBC2 manages to broadcast extended versions of QI and HIGNFY and BBC3 manages to broadcast shows like Dr Who Confidential - and neither network had to rebranded as BBC1 Extra. The trust even agreed that "closer editorial ties with Radio 4 and the doubling of cross promotion – do not necessarily require Radio 7 to be rebranded as Radio 4 Extra".

    We've already seen an increase in the use of Radio 4 continuity announcers on Radio 7 in recent months. So it seems clear that Radio 7's unique presentation style will be eliminated.

    I'm concerned that in the future we'll end up with programmes such as You and Yours Plus, Women's Hour and a Half, and Moneybox Extra, etc filling up the 4 Extra schedules; displacing the unique mix drama and comedy on the BBC 7 that a million listeners a week love.

    Re-branding Radio 7 to Radio 4 Extra is a stupid decision made for a totally illogical reason.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hello everyone.
    I actually think the change of name is an ok idea; not brilliant but not rubbish either. Some more changes with the new name MIGHT be a good idea though. Stretches of 2 or 3 hours of comedy CAN be a bit much sometimes. I know it's quite easy to dip in and out with a digital radio but surely the programme schedulers don't deliberately want to lose listeners; and sometimes I just forget to swap back.
    Oh, and by the way, cbeebies starts at 6 in the morning not 7, as I know from MY expirience. Also, it's rubbish! I forced myself to listen to it once for an extended and in the course of a fifteen minute programme on 'poetry' there was only 'poetry' for about 1 minute. The rest of it was jingles, intro music (repeated frequently) children laughing and shouting at very little and, what I can only describe as, random noise. I think this cheap sort of radio is not acceptable for young children. I have actually taught very small children, potential cbeebies listeners, for some years, and I've only ever found 1 child who listens to it. There are now 2; the second one is her little sister. I believe the daily listenership is under 25,000. Not good.

  • Comment number 35.

    Why or why is there a 'rebranding' of Radio 7 to Radio 4 Extra?
    The content of Radio 7 is just right and should stay.
    We migrated to Radio 7 so we can enjoy, once again, classic radio productions. My husband absolutely loves Big Toe Books on Radio 7 and he is of retiring age, so it appeals to 'children' of all ages.
    Radio 7 proves you do not have to broadcast news, current affairs and music to be a successful station.
    Radio 4 is only listened to in the car nowadays, but only due to an analogue receiver, and for years whenever the Ambridge durge starts up, or Desert Island Discs comes on air, we change channels - instantly - to Radio 5 for sport, or to Classic FM.
    We are furious that the two most disliked Radio 4 porgrammes in our household are going to be broadcast on Radio 7 - in extended format???
    PLEASE leave Radio 7 as it is....

  • Comment number 36.

    The cynic in me would suggest that since one of the plans for digital radio was the closing of radio 6 the "powers that be" thought still having a radio 7 would be a bit embaressing. Even though this plan was changed, radio 7's time had already come (or gone). I note there are no plans to call 6music radio 2 extra or anything similar though.

  • Comment number 37.

    Radio 4 Extra launch day is Saturday 2nd April.

  • Comment number 38.

    This is a disaster for radio 7. I gave up on radio 4 months ago with the Archers debacle and I detest Desert Island Discs. Why change something that people where happy with?. No doubt some ad company will have been paid a fortune to design a new logo. Its just another example of the BBC treating its listeners with contempt.

  • Comment number 39. ensure more Radio 4 listeners are aware...
    are Radio 4 listeners so dumb tht they don't know that Radio 7 exists? Please don't remove any program that's already running on 7!!!

  • Comment number 40.

    O dear. The rebranding seems more about adding 7's audience numbers to 4’s to bump them up for internal BBC reasons. So what if 4 listeners don’t know about 7? Who cares? Change 4 not 7 surely!

    I have now seen the proposed 4+ website and its not a patch on the simple 7 website we have now. Why waste licence payers money on a whole new web site layout when all that was required was a change of the logo image from 7 to 4+, 1 new image! What a waste of money.

    I for one regret what seems to be a sad change for 7 and what I predict will now be a slow slide to it becoming just an adjunct of 4 and eventually merged into it. Such a shame.

  • Comment number 41.

    I trust the new Archers programme will be edited by a person who cares for its listeners opinions and actually listens to the programme.

  • Comment number 42.

    @Tim Ceefax BBC One page 640 hasn't caught up with changes to BBC Radio just yet (BBC7 vice Radio 7 soon to be 4 Extra and World Service going Digital Only earlier this month), but then BBC Radio Homepage 's Messageboard Tab on all the pages leads to very old Messageboard page

    instead of (which will need another trim on Friday 1 April 2011 when BBC7 (sic), Radio4 and Asian Network Messageboards all close)

    Please would you look at either adding the schedule of 1Xtra, 5 Live Sports Extra, 6Music and Asian Network to Ceefax BBC One pages 640-659 or taking the schedules for World Service and BBC7 (sic) away from 648 and 658 and their namechecks on 640, 651 and 699 since both are Digital Only stations now?

  • Comment number 43.

    Since BBC 7 is being relaunced as Radio 4 Extra and is promised to contain more new material it would be nice if it could be in Stereo. I assume most new shows are recorded in Stereo. I remember when Stereo Radio first came to be on all networks back in 1974 or so. Are we really to go back over 30 years with our radio listening? Not so good for a supposedly new and improved digital system!


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