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My first week at Radio 4

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Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams 14:36, Monday, 27 September 2010

A sign from the fourth floor in BBC Broadcasting House.

"Unforgettable, that's what you are..." Mark Damazer's 'Inheritance Track' on last week's Saturday Live was characteristically charming and fluent, hinting at the warmth that makes him my friend as well as the highly successful Radio 4 controller that he has been for the last six years. He leaves the network in excellent shape with record audience figures. He is indeed a hard act to follow in a line of talented controllers including Helen Boaden who now runs News.

But I take heart because Radio 4, like all civilised institutions, belongs to no-one, is constantly evolving and drawing on the talents of all who contribute to it. It will thrive as long as we stay true to its history and add to its richness. I have been hugely sustained and cheered in my first week by programmes that have filled me with pleasure.

I have been in and out of Broadcasting House studios and I can honestly say that committed, creative and talented programme-makers are everywhere. And we all want for audiences what we have always wanted: more - to quote Matthew Arnold - of "the best that has been thought and said in the world"- and sometimes, let me add, a laugh. Lucky Radio 4 listeners and lucky me.

My Radio 4 aside of the week comes from auctioneer Alan Judd on Today describing some letters from Oscar Wilde: "journalists and auctioneers are very similar; we take a small story and try to make it big...".

I will try to keep you posted here on the blog as Mark has done and will look forward to reading your comments.

Gwyneth Williams is Controller of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 7


  • Comment number 1.

    Best of luck with Radio 4 Gwyneth, (you will be careful with it, won't you?)

  • Comment number 2.

    Was it your idea to put the Grim Reeper on 'Thought for the Day' this morning?
    Whoever that idiot was, it's the last thing any of us want to hear!

  • Comment number 3.

    When is the UK Theme coming back?

  • Comment number 4.

    Dear Gwyneth, welcome to Radio 4. What a treasured role you have to play. Please be kind to radio drama. It is a special art and one that paints pictures for all to 'see' and to share in.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello Gwyneth,

    All the best with your new job. Although you inherit a wonderful station you must have so many new ideas for the future direction of the station. If you are looking for suggestions I hope the schedule will have a greater focus on the regions. I look forward to hearing your plans for Radio 4 Extra too. Best wishes and good luck!

  • Comment number 6.

    July 60 (number 2) makes a good point.

    Who wants the news interrupted and a story about Jacob and Esau drummed into their heads at 7:50 in the morning?

    Keep up the good drama!

  • Comment number 7.

    At a time when the UK -and other European nations - are apparently under threat of
    a new terrorism attack, only BBC Radio Four could continue to put comment and
    interviews with the new leader of a disintegrating political party as its top story.
    Today, after a week of Ed Milliband stories with speculation on every conceivable bulletin, he's again
    leading the news, despite Frank Gardner's decent assessment of the latest threat, which was
    only rated third on the running list of the main bulletin this morning. What a drop in standards.

    I used to rely on and trust the BBC's news selction to present the most important stories
    first and the others later, but now I've turned to Classic and the other competitiors for
    my international news. BBC news , it seems, prefers the "easy" option; instead of
    gathering news and reporting it on merit, it's opting to give listeners stodgy, political stuff
    easily picked up from party sources. When can we get back to something like real news, like other broadcasters?

  • Comment number 8.

    Re the glowing tribute to Mr Damazer, I only found out recently that it was he who was personally responsible for removing the 'UK theme'. For this execrable act he deserves to be excoriated, whatever his other talents and achievements. Ms Williams could you please restore it to 'our BBC' ?

  • Comment number 9.

    Are you taking over a R4 that no longer provides podcasts of most past episodes of programmes such as In Our Time.(the introduction of this is something that was blogged about here earlier this year.)

    With the BBC saying But we have often been asked why the audience only has 7 days to listen again - and why we can't make available the brilliant - and enduring - programmes that have been made in recent years.

    And we now can do that.

    It appears that now we can NOT do that. The original blog said "Every edition of the programme is now available from the website. " is that no longer true. Or if programmes are available where; and where are the links to them ?

  • Comment number 10.

    I too, wish you an enjoyable and fruitful time ahead. You'll never please everybody, that is for sure.
    I do, however, hope that you do not bend to the very vocal contingent seeking reinstatement of the jingoistic "UK Theme". It really is (apart from its contents) a terrible waste of valuable airtime when real information can be conveyed to the listeners rather than a daily boring repeat, which anybody sufficiently interested could listen to by other means for 24hrs at a time, if they so wished. If whilst we're at it, you could remove the turgid Sailing By and shipping forecast on FM, you'd probably keep me from pondering whether I should change the habit of a lifetime by moving to another channel to escape from the overwhelming mass of much-repeated trailers.
    Once again good luck and much fun in the time ahead.

  • Comment number 11.

    I note the messageboards have just been improved, that has stirred up a lively discussion, with each section of the messageboard having its own thread. The the Host's TCIY thread is already approaching 300 comments.

    No doubt that will feature in any future blog you post.

  • Comment number 12.

    Congratulations Gwyneth on your appointment. Keep up the Zola Budd tradition of barefeet in the workplace.

    A thing which puzzles me - why do your bios never reveal in what part of South Africa you spent your childhood, which schools you attended and where you acquired your first degree before proceeding to Oxford?

    Would be nice to know.

    From the republic of Ireland, I listen to Beeb 4 every morning as I am shaving. Great, sane stuff and what a joy. (I am a journalist and author)

    Answer if you will and meantime - alles van die beste!

  • Comment number 13.

    That's a commendably neutral comment from John99 above. I would ask what the new controller will do to sort out the shambles that has been visited up on the Rafio 4 message boards, despite the programmers responsible knowing what problems beset the Foodie boards? As we've seen above, it's par for the course that people will ask for old features to be restored, but it's not unreasonable, I think, to ask that the fully functioning old boards be restored until you are able to guarantee that this new set-up works at least as well.

    And if this affair isn't a big part of next week's 'Feedback', many people will want to know why...

  • Comment number 14.

    As galling as the "shambles" on the R4 messageboards has been the deafening silence from 'Hosts', 'Moderators' and the rest.
    They are, if anything, usually too involved; however, now, when some (any) 'Host' input would be helpful they have disappeared. It appears that your opinion of us, your listening public, is that we are of absolutely no importance and it is "Your" BBC.

  • Comment number 15.

    I find it absolutely astonishing that the BBC has not seen fit to comment on the fact that it is currently impossible to start a new thread on its 'revamped' Radio 4 messageboards and that the typeface/font chosen makes messages virtually unreadable if the poster chooses to use more than three words per line. Wouldn't it have been a courtesy to state at the very least that the BBC acknowledges that there is a problem? Ideally they might go on to tell users what they plan to do about it, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

  • Comment number 16.

    I wish to bring to your attention my anger at the disgraceful treatment of Polly Toynbee during the discusion on R4 this morning following the Pope's talk on Thought For The Day. We trust the BBC to promote free speech but after Christine Odoni(?) had her say in complete silence and without interruption, Polly Toynbee was rudely interrupted as she began her piece not only by Christine but also by John Humphries who we expect to conduct a fair discussion. Shame on you R4.


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