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04/08/2015
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Today on Feedback; Your questions for the R4 Controller

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Editor's note: You can leave your questions for Roger to put to the Radio 4 Controller on next week's Feedback in the comments on this blog post - PM.

Just after 4am in the Today office at BBC Television Centre in west London.

The programme team has been working since eight the previous evening. The journalists have five hours to go and coffee cups litter the tables fighting for space with every conceivable newspaper and magazine. Arguably the last three hours are the most important, when they are dog tired but have to be at the top of their game for the programme's transmission.

Each three-hour Today programme has around 100 items, some of which will bite the dust if there is a breaking or developing story. Producers soon learn the art of standing down an interviewee, and of phoning up another at some unearthly hour.

This morning's presenters, Sarah Montague and John Humphrys slip into the office, the latter having parked his bike outside.

I am slightly astonished that the BBC is happy for such a central figure to be cycling in the dark in west London at such an early hour, but JH is overflowing with energy as if he has consumed half-a-dozen espressos already.

Enter stage left a Feedback listener, Francesca Fenn, an avid Today listener , who has been given an access all areas pass to find out what goes on behind the scenes. I would like to tell you that she is accompanied by Feedback's presenter as well as its producer, but I'm afraid I didn't get there until after six am, for budgetary reasons of course.

The vast majority of the audience, and there are more than seven million of them , are a pretty vociferous lot, so I was not short of questions to put to the Today editor when I interviewed him a couple of days later.

First, here is a snapshot of what goes on behind the scenes at the apparently smooth running show.

Our thanks to listener Francesca Fenn who has gone back to bed.

Two days later when I talked to the Editor of Today, Ceri Thomas, the News International hacking scandal was beginning to quieten down.

Our thanks to everyone at the Today programme for placing no restrictions whatever on where we could go.

Next week I'll be talking to the Controller of Radio 4 about the schedule changes she has made, one of which is to move this programme from its Friday slot at 1.30 to 4.30pm in the afternoon.

Do let me know what you want me to ask her. You can leave a comment below.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

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Comments

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by Will Richards

    on 5 Aug 2011 19:49

    Is it because of her gender bias that Gwyneth Williams refuses to permit real equality on Radio 4, by allowing men a daily magazine programme through which to voice their views, perspectives and experiences, just as 'Woman's Hour' does for women? I have heard weak excuses from the BBC, such as it can also be informative and entertaining for the male half of Radio 4's audience. That may be true, but equally, an hour a day dedicated to the male perspective might also prove informative and entertaining for women. Is sexism only wrong when women are its victims, but not when men are? Are not half of the BBC's and Radio 4's audience male, and do they not have the right to an equal voice?

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by Marcus Smith

    on 29 Jul 2011 13:39

    newlach


    I have been listening to Radio 4 since it's inception in 1967. I have 14 radios around the house all tuned to Radio 4. I work from home and listen, on average, to about 8 hours of Radio 4 thoughout the day. I think I have as sound a knowledge of Radio 4 output as anyone else and, in my option, 'there is more than enough, and at times an outrageous amount, of americana on Radio 4 without having a whole programme dedicated to it'. The reason why 'I am delighted that Americana is going' is because I like to take a nice relaxing bath at 7.15 on a Sunday evening and I am looking forward to listening to some other than yet another programme about America.

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by cheryl markosky

    on 29 Jul 2011 07:17

    I'd like to say how wonderful the comedy Cabin Pressure is. I'm sure people complain more than praise, and this is tightly written, superbly acted and directed. In fact, Radio 4 excels itself at well-written comedy and drama in many forms, including short stories (please don't chop these, or is this just rumour?), plays and sit-coms (dreadful word, but you know what I mean). So, more of all of the above. Or, will the freezing of the licence fee restrict terrific productions like Cabin Pressure?

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Russ

    on 28 Jul 2011 14:36

    Given that Gwyneth Williams has now clarified the number of first and second time writer commissions in the Afternoon Play slot is now 40 out of 150, the second half of my comment #15 is withdrawn.

    Russ

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by newlach

    on 28 Jul 2011 11:29

    Marcus Smith

    I do not get the impression from reading your comment that you have a sound knowledge of what Americana is about. Americana, a 30 minute programme broadcast once a week, has a distinctive character. It is not a programme that reinforces the crude stereotypes much derided by all discerning listeners, but one that provides valuable insights into everyday life in the United States. I do not understand how you can be "delighted" that this much loved programme is being axed by Gwyneth Williams. Have any items in particular from the programme angered or upset you?

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by Marcus Smith

    on 27 Jul 2011 18:39

    I am delighted that Americana is going. I strongly urge Gwyneth Williams to resist the lobbying, on this blog and elsewhere, for it to stay. There is more than enough, and at times an outrageous amount, of americana on Radio 4 without having a whole programme dedicated to it. I was hoping, with Gwyneth Williams background, that Americana would be replaced by Africana.

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by Sensatus

    on 25 Jul 2011 13:58

    There is really far too much religious content on the Today programme. I refer not just to the wholly anachronistic and vile Thought for the Day; but to the general undercurrent, too. What the machinations are happening in the General Synod is not a fit topic. On a slow news day, getting in some bishop or imam to comment on whatever adds no value whatsoever - their opinion is, more often than not, utterly irrelevant. The Sunday programme is a ghastly offence and should be scrapped; but not before the weekday programme is purged of all mumbo-jumbo. A good policy would be to ensure no 'believers' are producers or editors on the show - that way no codswallop is likely to creep in.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by Paul Murphy

    on 25 Jul 2011 13:52

    Hi All
    Deadline for suggested questions for the Controller of Radio 4 is end of tomorrow, Tuesday 26 July.
    Many thanks
    Paul

  • Comment number 15. Posted by Russ

    on 24 Jul 2011 20:05

    The Radio 4 resources for Drama & Readings continue to get worse: here are the hours figures:


    Year Commitment Actual

    2005-6 760 770
    2006-7 730 746
    2007-8 730 732
    2008-9 600 661
    2009-10 600 655
    2010-11 600 619

    Can we have an assurance that this downward trend is not going to continue?

    From her blog on the cuts to the number of readings, Gwyneth Williams wrote:
    We have just signed off on 22 plays by first or second time writers to radio in the Afternoon Play slot

    22 out of 150? I feel such a 15% ratio is falling unhealthily low, particularly as 33% was achieved in 2007-8. Although the long-standing 25% commitment has been dropped as an official requirement of the Service Licence (a result of the skullduggery between the Trust and the Executive), a 25% level does seem to provide a better look-in for new writers.

    Russ

    P.S. Have to agree with newlach concerning Eddie Mair on PM. If people have a problem with the content of PM, then the target for criticism should surely be the producer, rather than the presenter.

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  • Comment number 14. Posted by newlach

    on 24 Jul 2011 16:01

    I vehemently disagree with the derogatory comment above about Eddie Mair. Some people are more easily irritated than others for a variety of reasons.

    I was much impressed with the PM Privacy Commission, and I found the report published on Friday an interesting and informative read. It was good to hear on PM the considered views of people from a variety of backgrounds. The Commission allowed me to gain a valuable insight into the tension that exists between a persons right to privacy and public's right to know.

    Despite the concerns expressed by Stephen Abell (Director of the PCC) that the report might be "imbalanced" because too few "representatives of the public" appeared before the Commission, I consider that the commissioners have done a fine job. In especially refined language the report concludes that the PCC in its present form is not fit for purpose. On Friday's PM the phrase "a more energetic sense of curiosity" was reported.

    Will the PM Commission reconvene to examine other important issues?

    Is it some new style of report-writing that puts conclusions near the start!

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