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I was promised freshly-brewed coffee and croissants at the end of their last run but when I went to Feedback to talk to R4 listeners - alas - I got a lovely welcome but just the usual BBC water... I did, however, get a chance to answer some listeners' questions and to put some of my early thoughts about Radio 4 to Roger Bolton. I was also interviewed by Ben Dowell from Media Guardian and his article is published today.

In my first three months as Controller of Radio 4 I have been travelling around meeting producers - and I have still to meet many, both in-house and in the independent sector. I have been overwhelmed by the commitment and quality that I encounter from programme-makers everywhere so I am determined to try and simplify our commissioning processes. Radio 4 has good audience figures and rings with intellectual rigour so if we cannot take a few creative risks now, when can we? In terms of strategic direction, I want to emphasise Radio 4's more forward-looking, modern side to complement our deserved reputation for history coverage and I am keen to encourage a more international sensibility across all programmes- I don't mean more foreign programmes but a subtle understanding that what happens in the world affects our local decisions and everyday lives, in culture, economics, health and most things.

From October I plan to launch a new 9 a.m. science programme - not about the ideas of science which Melvyn Bragg covers regularly in the brilliant In Our Time - but about science and working scientists, about the scientific method, across a range of subjects: physics, biology, engineering, technology, natural history. The Science Department will lead the work on developing this and I have been talking to various people, among them Jim Al-Khalili, a scientist and an experienced broadcaster, about possibly presenting it. I also want to broadcast a fifteen-minute interview strand in which some of our best journalists can be led by their passions and interests in choosing subject matter and interviewees. I hope to entice Lyse Doucet, Robert Peston, Bridget Kendall, John Humphrys, Lucy Kellaway and others to give it a try. I have been talking to the poet Ruth Padel about the possibility of presiding over a series of poetry masterclasses that will travel around Britain to tap into the current explosion of interest in poetry. And there will be new comedy on Sunday evening to cheer us at the end of the weekend and build on Radio 4's record of championing talent. Look out too for new satire from Rory Bremner.

This does not come without some sadness: Taking a Stand, On the Ropes, The Choice and Between Ourselves will go from October to make way for science. I launched Taking a Stand myself some twelve years ago with its talented producer. The programme was award-winning; I have one, for an interview Fergal Keane did with Rufus May, that I have kept with me and is now hanging on the wall of my new office in Broadcasting House. I have not made this change without a lot of thought and I can assure you that, in different ways, these much-loved presenters will still grace the airwaves of Radio 4.

Gwyneth Williams is Controller of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 7

Comments

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by amber_prophet

    on 31 Jan 2011 13:31

    Another shout-out here for the excellent Material World which has always been one of my favourite Radio 4 offerings. I'm always in favour of more science programming but maybe you should make sure that your new programme doesn't replicate what you're already doing well.

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by Mo

    on 31 Jan 2011 13:12

    While it is always good news to hear that there will be more science on the radio, the description "science and working scientists, about the scientific method, across a range of subjects: physics, biology, engineering, technology, natural history" sounds very much like the excellent and informative Material World presented by Quentin Cooper.
    I do hope you have not overlooked this gem of a programme.

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by lincolnjeffrey

    on 30 Jan 2011 19:01

    Wow. More science on Radio 4 is really interesting. I will surely follow this always.

    Thank you, it will surely take away my boredom.

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Patrick Too

    on 28 Jan 2011 14:50

    Any chance of getting rid of that miserable, mawkish, dismal excuse of a programme Saturday "Dead" and giving us something nice like Loose Ends back on a Saturday morning!

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by PeterR

    on 28 Jan 2011 14:21

    I heard your interview this morning on Feedback (we're 7 hours adrift). As 50+ year listeners to the Home Service/Radio4, my wife and I were heartened to learn of your planned additions (science especially) as well as your clear understanding of the heritage you have been entrusted with. Similarly, your chagrin at the loss of Archer's listeners (my wife and I included - almost 4 weeks now) was appreciated. Yes we are in mourning, no not over the silly death, but over the complete reversal of the intelligence and gentle social engineering always habitually present in Archer's programming. Two of the most mature, stable characters, having been drinking, having been warned and agreeing not to go on the roof in frozen windy conditions to manhandle a large banner - the stupidity was out of character, the social engineering completely adverse to Archer's good sense, the sensationalism rampant and, on a science note, the dopler effect incorrect.
    On the other hand, perhaps this is the new Archers, new social engineering - in support of a divisive Britain, one where nothing seems to follow any logic and where stability of customers (listeners) is unimportant. Were this commercial radio the whole production team would have been fired with the drop in listeners' numbers.
    Fire her, apologize and maybe we can have faith that a nurturing, critical part of our day can return. For now, dozens of people we know have simply switched off. And that's just the Archers fans we know.

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by Mike Waller

    on 28 Jan 2011 10:38

    Any chance that you could be very brave and confer on R4 messageboards the same status as Speaker's Corner in London? "Blogs" such as this - to which we are frequently referred if we want to discuss content of R4 programmes rather than presentational issues - simply do not meet the interactive need. Quite happy to have racism and other naughties jumped on, but to discuss, say, whether the Government's economic strategy is a wise one on a messageboard seems to me a nature development of the democratic process. This is particularly so in respect of people like me who glean many of the facts upon which we argue the case from our beloved R4. If some kind of control is felt necessary to avoid endless discussion, then give every topic a fixed period. At present we feel like naughty children trying to slip one past teacher. I would say to all those responsible for deciding on this issue: "Courage mon braves".

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by Kaiho

    on 27 Jan 2011 13:36

    I am delighted to hear that there will be more science on R4.
    Also in favour of keeping 'Thought for the Day'.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by Andrew Oakley

    on 27 Jan 2011 12:31

    It's great that there will be more science on Radio 4, although it would have been nice to have it at, say, 7:50am rather than 9am. If we're not going to scrap Thought For The Day, can we at least allow John Humphrys to interview the Thinker with the same vigour he reserves for all other people? Please don't pretend that Thought For The Day is a separate programme; it is introduced by Today presenters and not continuity announcers. And why can't we have atheists, humanists, secularists and agnostics on Thought For The Day?

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by Robert Carnegie

    on 27 Jan 2011 10:11

    Is there still a serving of personal misery in [Saturday Live]? I can't be doing with it myself but there's clearly demand for it.

    Trying to remember who it was who sang a country music piece rejecting all the refrains of suffering that normally populate that genre, I seem to find that I'm remembering Bob Luman's "Let's Think About Living" and it is described in Wikipedia as "a novelty song". As in, "A country song that isn't about something terrible happening. Now there's a novelty."

    In W. H. Smith's book section I believe you are looking for the aisle marked "Tragic Life Stories". I don't know if there's also a Dewey categosy number. Something under Biography, I suppose.

    Come to think, half of the bible is "Tribulations". The other half is telling you that you deserve every bit of it. So, look under T.

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  • Comment number 14. Posted by newlach

    on 26 Jan 2011 11:33

    I detect inconsistency and contradiction in what the Controller says.

    In the interview with Ben Dowell she states: "in order to keep it [Radio 4] good it must change," but why does she offer an iron-clad guarantee that there will be no change to the contentious and divisive Thought For The Day? Continuing to give preachers a pulpit on Radio 4 will not contribute to making the station "more easily modern and forward-looking".

    Keep your dogma to yourself.

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