Does it matter where a Radio 4 programme comes from?
David Liddiment, the BBC Trustee who led its review into Radio 4 among other stations, must be wondering what has hit him.
No sooner had he published the review last week than newspaper columnists, the odd BBC presenter, and a lot of listeners attacked him for trying to fix something they don't believe is broken.
The irony is, neither does he.
Actually I have been economical with the actualité: some listeners would like to wring his neck. What Mr Liddiment was pointing out, which is irrefutable, is that the further away you are from London, the less likely you are to listen to Radio 4. And the same applies if you are younger, non-white and from a poorer household.
The real debate is about whether that matters, and if it does, whether moving much of the corporation's output out of London, much of it to near Manchester, is the way to tackle the alleged problem.
I should declare an interest here. Although I have worked in London for most of the past 40 years, I was brought up and educated in the north, worked full-time in Manchester for three years in the 1980s, travelled there at weekends for more than 10 years to present the Radio 4 Sunday programme - and survived.
Last week, as you may have heard, I talked to Mr Liddiment about some aspects of his review. This week I travelled to the BBC's promised land, the shining Media City UK beyond the Salford Ship Canal (it's usually called the Manchester Ship Canal, but don't say that in Salford. Those two adjacent cities have a relationship not unlike the Hitchens brothers Peter and Christopher).
I am sure that most BBC Radio listeners, generous hearted as they are, will be delighted that BBC staff are to be housed in such splendid surroundings, at their expense, although the BBC insists that 'out of London' is cheaper in the long run. But of course, what really matters is what the output from Salford will be like. Will it be the same, significantly different and/or most importantly better?
Two very independent and passionate Radio 4 listeners Heather Howarth and Delphine Price accompanied me to New Broadcasting House in Manchester which will soon be made redundant when all the staff there move to Media City UK. There we met Ian Bent, head of audio and music production in Manchester to discuss these questions:
I'd be very interested to know what your view is on 'out of London'. Are the BBC's national radio stations too metrocentric and what should be done to change that - or are you quite happy with what you hear? Leave a comment here or get in touch via the Feedback web page. Apologies if you've had trouble getting through to our phone line in the last few weeks. The high number and length of some of the calls caused some problems but we think we've fixed it now.
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.
- The review of service licences for Radio 3, Radio 4 and 5 live as well as reports relating to archives and children's output are on the BBC Trust's web site.
- Radio 4 Controller Gwyneth Williams blogged about the service licence review earlier this week and, on last week's Feedback, Roger spoke to David Liddiment from the Trust about their recommendations.
- Picture by Evan Moss. Some rights reserved.