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31/08/2015
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Hello again,

I've been reading your comments and feedback on the blog and elsewhere and wanted to respond to some of the points that people have made. I commented last week on the blog and Streetlight2 has identified some of the other things many of you are asking about so I've based my answers around them:

The presenters on 4Extra - what's the thinking behind changing them from the R7 team?

Now that Radio 4 Extra is aligned with Radio 4, the presentation teams are working together. Some of the Radio 4 presenters were keen to work on Radio 4 Extra, which is very different from reading the news on Radio 4! Of course Jim Lee, a stalwart of Radio 7/4Extra, has worked on both networks for over 8 years and Alan Smith, who was with Radio 7 in the early days, is now back with us again. Former Radio 7 presenters will have the occasional presence on 4Extra; in fact you can hear Helen Aitken in a couple of weeks interviewing a comedy troupe performing a Sherlock Holmes spoof.

All of the presenters have other work of course, both on radio and television, and fans of Alex Riley can see him popping up regularly on BBC Three.

What about the lack of drama programming?

The drama remit for Radio 7 was originally to broadcast a minimum of 50 hours per week. As Radio 4 Extra, we committed to a minimum of 55 hours of drama per week, and we actually broadcast more than that. You might be surprised to know that on Radio 4Extra, we broadcast on average of 68 hours per week, including of course the 24-hour overnight repeats.

As Head of Programmes launching Radio 7 over 8 years ago, and faced with a blank sheet of paper, I was keen to schedule longer drama on the archive station, and introduced two 90 minute plays at weekends, plus a 75-minute Woman's Hour archive omnibus on Sundays. The omnibus has been popular, and to build on that we have introduced a second 75 minute omnibus on Saturdays, made up of the previous week's Radio 4 Woman's Hour serial. With adding some new elements to the schedule, we stopped broadcasting the 90 minute drama on Sundays, but brought in the 60 minute children's/family drama slot, commissioning 8 new dramas in the process.

But of course, radio stations evolve and as with any radio station we will continue to review our output.

On Radio 4 Extra I was also keen to retain the 60 minute dramas, daily from Monday to Friday, plus the daily 45 minute dramas. These have included Fortunes of War, Howard's End and Ben Hur, three terrific and substantial dramas, plus currently for Easter, the landmark Dorothy L Sayer's production, The Man Who Would be King, in twelve 45 minute episodes. We have had good feedback on these productions, and are planning to follow-up with the Complete Smiley dramatisations, beginning in May.

The 7th Dimension and Crime and Thriller hours have remained the same, with the 1.00am repeat of the Crime and Thriller Hour being re-instated for the night owls from the week beginning 16 May.

Complaints about broadcasting The Archers, Ambridge Extra and Desert Island Discs. If some of these programs are available on Radio 4, then why put them on Radio 4 Extra?

Following the research and consultation we undertook, the BBC Trust wanted to ensure that there wouldn't be too many changes in the re-branding and in fact 85% of the Radio 4 Extra schedule has remained unchanged.

The Archers and Desert Island Discs are very popular strands, so we decided to build on these strengths to attract Radio 4 listeners (many of whom were/are unaware of the existence of Radio 7).

Regarding The Archers, we considered some archive programming, but with some missing programmes this would be difficult to sustain; we also felt that a repeat of the omnibus was not quite right, so the decision was made to commission a short, new Archers serial - Ambridge Extra. This will be running until the end of June, followed by a summer break.

I was interested to note that in the most recent podcast chart, Ambridge Extra came in at number 2 - just behind Adam and Joe.

When I started Radio 7, archive Desert Island Discs was on my shopping list, and I was keen to group the DID programmes in batches featuring The Comedians, The Actors, The Musicians etc. I have always thought that listeners would value the opportunity to hear archive editions of DID and the launch of 4Extra provides this as does the new DID website, updating information on the castaway, linking into the schedule when possible. For example, we began with children's authors, and when Jacqueline Wilson was last week's castaway, we broadcast one of her readings on the 4 0'Clock Show.

We will be following up with The Authors and The Comedians.

Any change to a network can be difficult to accept, and when the idea was initially mooted to change Radio 7, I admit I had my reservations.

Like some listeners, I was concerned that the station might become too serious.

However, I truly believe that there are many benefits in being so closely aligned with Radio 4. Some fresh ideas have been introduced, but at the same time I feel that we have managed to retain the entertainment essence that launched Radio 7 eight years ago - we continue to bring you great radio comedy and drama.

It would be impossible to please all of our listeners all of the time, but I hope that all of you manage to find entertaining programmes to listen to on Radio 4 Extra most of the time,

Best wishes

Mary

Mary Kalemkerian is Head of Programmes at BBC Radio 4 Extra

  • The photograph is from the BBC picture library. The caption reads "Picture shows (l-r) Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Jo Kendall, David Hatch and Bill Oddie, five young comedians from the world-travelled 'Footlights Revue' Cambridge Circus, who star in the new comedy revue series I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, which begins in the BBC Light Programme on Monday 4th October, 1965."

Comments

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  • Comment number 95. Posted by kimoco

    on 18 Aug 2011 15:22

    I am not an old person, I am in my early 30's and I listened to Radio 7 since my oldest daughter was born back in 2006. I loved Radio 7 it was my constant companion the whole family would listen. I hate the new 4 extra. I was once an avid listener I would turn on the radio and turn off the TV now I do the opposite because I won't listen to Desert Island Poo as my daughter has dubbed it and the constant repeated pap they have imported from Radio 4.

    Radio 4 Extra you have lost three generations of listeners. My children have nothing to listen to anymore and I now borrow suitable listening CD and books from the library. My mum gave up. The is nothing for me to listen to as I cannot stand listening to the same programme repeated more than once a day, I am easy going listener I will listen to most things but there is nothing challenging nothing amusing and nothing wonderful anymore. With the amount of audio books available why is Harry Potter or Kathy Reichs, or Louise Rennisons books not on the Radio. Step up to the mark and allow the listeners to listen to good quality entertainment I hate having to change the station when Desert Island Poo starts. You are losing your audience you need to listen and not keep coming up with excuses or false the over 55's where the only people who listened to Cbbies on the radio my children are 5 and 2 and until you got rid of it they listened every day and where so disappointed that you cut it from the schedule.

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  • Comment number 94. Posted by tigermontague

    on 3 Aug 2011 21:55

    I agree with your comments Washishu.
    Whose bright idea was it to have a comedian Mitch Benn to introduce the Seventh Dimension?
    Mitch Benn is fine on comedy programmes, but on SD he tries to be funny, by mocking classics, such as Journey Into Space, and it is highly irritating. I just can't listen to him doing it.
    This "branded drivel" also extends to other programmes. I have heard vintage crime being knocked for posh accents, and the names of characters in classic dramas mis pronounced. We also learn far more than we would ever want to about the opinions of these people
    These announcers don't do this kind of thing on Radio 4, but it seems as if they feel they have been let out of school and anything goes on 4Extra.
    Those of us who listened to Radio7 do not like being talked down to. Please tell them to stop. I have hesitantly come back to the station, but this is ruining it for me.

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  • Comment number 93. Posted by washishu

    on 1 Aug 2011 10:03

    Like many of the contributors here (I suspect), I took part in the consultation process. It was clear then that the Radio 7 re-branding was going to go ahead no matter what. I was previously a dedicated Radio 4 + Radio 7 listener, switching between the two frequently—The Archers? Not to my taste; switch to 7; Navy Lark? Didn't like it when I heard it as a child, now it's dated rubbish; switch to 4.

    So, I've tried to be dispassionate and objective. I've given it time to settle in. It's still poor. I don't agree with the rationale behind the change, but even by that rationale, I don't understand the change(s).

    Enough has been said above about the content changes.

    One notable aspect of Radio 4 is the absence of inane station jingles so why populate Radio 4X with the most inane jingles before, after and often during every single continuity announcement? Perhaps that's the Extra.

    A second feature of Radio 4 has always been the announcers'/presenters' respect for listeners intelligence. Although I have my favourites and some I don't care for, even the worst are better by miles than other continuity announcers you can buy. Mel Giedroyc is the exception. I can't decide whether she thinks listeners are idiots or if maybe she is simply doing what she's been told to do, as there is a general shift away from the straight-forward announcements of Radio 7 to a "branded" drivel.

    Like so many here, I used to listen to Radio 7 for hours and simply tolerated those programmes that weren't to my personal taste or switched back to Radio 4. Now I switch off and I miss it terribly sometimes.

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  • Comment number 92. Posted by March Hare

    on 21 Jul 2011 09:53

    I did not read the removed post, but how about this for an idea... instead of removing posts, why not address the flaming issue?

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  • Comment number 91. Posted by Shannon O_Hara

    on 18 Jul 2011 18:45

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

  • Comment number 90. Posted by badger

    on 13 Jul 2011 23:50

    the other change that irritates me is that there is to much talking programmes like 'what is so funny with marcus hound' not funny laughing at himself all the time, repeats of loose ends.... arrrrrggggghhhhh
    and what about the crime hour and science fiction hour, could we have something new rather the continued repeats along with much of the comedy. At least with the comedy some of it bears repeat as you can laugh again but if you have heard the crime and science fiction 6 times already on radio 7 then they don't really benefit from even more repeats along with the repeats of the likes of the Now show days after they have already been on radio 4 twice, what is that about. most people can listen to the repeats on the i player.

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  • Comment number 89. Posted by Meg Alithic

    on 12 Jul 2011 11:23

    4 Extra is dreadfull! We have lost a lot of comedy (despite BBC claiming the opposite). After all, we used to have seperate comedy playing on Radio 4 and Radio 7, but now we get almost immediate repeats from 4 to 4extra. Listener choice has been reduced.

    I no longer have my radio on for hours as I once did, and positively avoid all the Dessert Island Discs (if I had wanted to listen to that I would have tuned into Radio 4 in the first place).

    As for the presenters... well! The Radio 4 presenters don't have the right approach whilst voicing the links, and the proliferation of inane drivveling interviews as time fillers drive me to distraction.

    For goodness sake, listen to your audience and sort it out!! But the cynical side of me says you won't, that when you can produce figures to show audience share has dropped dramatically you can then close it with a clear mind.

    You took your digital jewel (Radio 7) and swapped it for a stone.

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  • Comment number 88. Posted by Squirrel

    on 6 Jul 2011 19:07



    What are you doing to Radio4extra?!

    Three examples of madness hidden in the digital schedules:

    Meet David Sedaris: Series 2 first run on 4extra not Radio4 as any normal listener would expect. Meanwhile the repeats of series 1 are to be found on Radio4! Why?

    Dad's Army: First 13 episodes of radio series 1 broadcast (of 20) and then with no reason it has been taken off.

    Ambridge Extra: Great spin-off of a very long running radio soap. Broadcast as two episodes a week for three months and then just ends!

    Your plan (if any) is very frustrating for the listeners (if any) who were better off with Radio7.

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  • Comment number 87. Posted by SharonCarol

    on 6 Jul 2011 17:45

    Sometime ago my sister encouraged me to buy a digital radio. I started to listen to BBC Radio 7 and thoroughly enjoyed it. The old dramas, the beautiful voices of the female presenters and the comedy. Suddenly, the BBC feels the need to change things; why, why, why? I no longer listen to 4 Extra and rarely now to Radio 4 - there's simply no enjoyment. Would somebody please put me in charge of the programmes schedule for just six months? I promise to turn around your listening figures within that timescale. Believe your Radio 7 audience when they tell you what they want to hear and don't assume to know. I sincerely hope that listeners who don't want to listen to the mundane programmes on 4 Extra, switch off! That's the only way the BBC will listen to us, their audience.

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  • Comment number 86. Posted by cats22

    on 26 Jun 2011 16:40

    It's been nearly three months and I am still finding I don't feel inclined to have 4 extra on for hours on end. That does mean that I don't mind the trailers because they can alert me to things I might otherwise miss (despite a careful reading of the Radio Times) so I hope they are drawing other listeners over.

    I do feel that the drama and readings output has improved and I applaud the repeats of old classic serials. There are, however, still programmes and sections dotted through the day which destroy the mood, just when it begins to feel like our beloved radio 7 such as the Front Row interview and What's so Funny. Desert Island Discs ought to have been ideal for 4 Extra but it doesn't work for me and it's still irritating that one slot is taken up with a repeat of the Woman's Hour Drama from just the week before.

    Still, there is some good news - Ambridge Extra is coming up for its "summer break", the Garrison Keillor radio show also seems to be taking a break and Crime and Thrillers are back at 1am. The new announcers are also increasingly getting the right tone, that is not so intrusive. Books at Beachtime is also a good initiative.

    So for my taste it's getting there after a very shaky start and I want to encourage the BBC to carry on trying and not to give it up as a bad job.

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