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Presenter Martha Kearney. The World at One will be extended as part of a range of Autumn schedule changes.

Rather a busy week here at Radio 4. It was ten to five on Thursday when we heard about The News of the World closing down. I am in the middle of our annual commissioning round and so was in close conversation with Jeremy Howe, drama commissioner, and Tony Pilgrim, maestro scheduler. We stopped our discussion of Ulysses and thought instead (with sympathy) of Eddie Mair drafting his opening sentence. I could count on him not to say 'hacked to death'.

I wandered upstairs to the Media Show to suggest a special the next day - noon we agreed if Steve were up for it. He was of course (Steve Hewlett that is, the guru for this and other media tales). I was back in time to hear Eddie introduce what has to have been one of the best PM programmes (or any programme) on a breaking story for quite a while. And yes, Steve was with Eddie, to add his sixpence. Then back to, where were we, oh yes ... moving on to Trollope.

This blog is really about Radio 4 this Autumn. We have some new programmes and a schedule change coming up. I have decided to extend The World At One. With the faster development of stories following Today (especially now that Parliament sits in the morning) there simply is not enough time to cover the full news agenda, both foreign and domestic. The excellent Martha Kearney runs out of time when she is just getting going - and besides I have got tired of extending WATO every time a story breaks. This has happened too often since I have been here and listeners get fed up if they are looking forward to other planned programmes.

All these programmes remain, by the way, in the new schedule; they are simply (for the most part) put into the afternoon after the play at three o'clock (details are below). We are also launching new comedy on Sunday night: John Finnemore in his first solo show. I am thrilled to have new political satire from Rory Bremner on Radio 4, Tonight, which starts Thursday nights and will repeat into the Sunday slot, and Sue Perkins with a new panel game, Dilemma - and there's more to come.

We will have a new science programme on Tuesday mornings at nine o clock presented by the physicist, Jim al-Khalili, with the aim of getting us up to speed on the science and scientists that are changing the world we live in - who knows, I might even be able to understand the introduction to my daughter's PhD by the end of the first series. A new 15-minute interview programme called One to One will (some have said, alarmingly) let presenters follow their passions. Americana is closing. It is a terrific programme and has done well, taking us deeper into some of that vast country's untold stories. I will certainly continue to commission programmes about the US - it is after all the world's superpower and has huge impact on us here in the UK - as well as on other parts of the world, including building up our European coverage. Readings will diminish but we will add some on to Radio 4Extra and we will continue to brag about our brilliant Radio 4 short stories and back the BBC National Short Story Award to the hilt.

This job is about choices. I have made some. I hope they keep Radio 4 listeners happy and listening.

Gwyneth Williams is Controller of BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra

Details of the Radio 4 schedule changes.

  • The last time The World At One duration was changed was in 1998 when it was reduced from 40 minutes to half an hour.
  • The Life Scientific will be broadcast on Tuesday mornings from 9-9.30am, after which One to One will run for 15 minutes.
  • The narrative history series will move from its 3.45pm slot to 1.45pm, following on from The World At One. The first series at the new time will be A History of the Brain, presented by Professor Geoff Bunn.
  • Rory Bremner's show Tonight will be broadcast from Sunday 16th October at 7.45pm (originated Thursday before at 11pm).
  • From November, the short stories (currently running at 3.30pm, Tuesday-Thursday) will be rescheduled with some broadcast at 3.45pm on Friday and some at 7.45pm on Sunday.
  • From next spring, the number of short stories will be reduced from three to one a week on Radio 4. There will also be readings on Radio 4 Extra.
Those programmes that followed The World At One at 1.30pm will, on the whole, be broadcast between 3-5pm, from 7th November. The reorganisation of the afternoon schedule will be run along the following lines:

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  • Comment number 51. Posted by newlach

    on 20 Jul 2011 19:20

    Marcus Smith

    Has some particular story from the programme offended you?

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  • Comment number 50. Posted by Marcus Smith

    on 20 Jul 2011 11:13

    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 49. Posted by algyzira

    on 18 Jul 2011 15:14

    By the way, am I the only person left in the world who quite likes "Quote, unquote"?

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  • Comment number 48. Posted by algyzira

    on 18 Jul 2011 15:09

    Not more news! Networks are already awash with it and it's too, too depressing. Radio 4 is superb at times but would be even better with no news at all. More good comedy please and more, not fewer, short stories.

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  • Comment number 47. Posted by allikat

    on 16 Jul 2011 01:08

    I want to know why nowhere on this site, even in the press office release, is there to be found a full list of the axed programming?
    Americana, was an interesting, if massively delayed, follow on from the much loved "Letter from America", which was sorely missed. Something needs to replace it. We need to know how our cousins across the pond are thinking, and how their real lives go.
    Casenotes going? WHY?
    And I also second the need for more coverage of engineering topics. Material world has a vast amount to cover, and either needs more time, or we need a second show to keep us all up to date.

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  • Comment number 46. Posted by Russ

    on 15 Jul 2011 16:32

    Oooh err - if our Gwyneth aims to outnumber the changes James Boyle introduced in the late '90s, she might inherit the mantle of 'The Dark Controller'...

    Although I was never a great Americana fan, thinking it might give way to another international documentary perspective type of thing, I am surprised the slot is being filled with more panel/comedy shows, of which R4 has too many ailing specimens already - with ISIHAC, JAM and Quote, Unquote being well past their sell-by date IMHO, despite being very popular.

    R4 should not be driven by a chase for cheap audience ratings, although I must admit, somewhat contradicting myself perhaps, to looking forward to the new Bremner satire programme. (And if only he could have been on now, given the feast of material in the last couple of weeks!)

    Russ

    P.S. Totally agree with Lawrence about the need for some nitty-gritty engineering - R4's science is over-dominated by academics living in fairy land.

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  • Comment number 45. Posted by rusticbrixton

    on 15 Jul 2011 15:16

    Good news about Wato stretching out again. Bad news though about some of the filler programmes that have been at 13:30 finding new homes.

    Americana was past its sell-by date. It should have been Russia and China - we know far less about them and anyone with digital TV can get fixes of real Americana from the news channels.

    Shame you didn't remove the 11:45 mini-soap that occupies part of Womans Hour and bring back the serial reading. The drama serial must be more expensive than an actor reading an out-of-copyright book - I feel bereft with regular doses of Mme Bovary.

    Huge welcome to the Tuesday 09:00 science spot, replacing religion/ethics.

    In spite of the carping, though, it's a welcome refreshing of a schedule that had been getting tired.

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  • Comment number 44. Posted by doctakeschair

    on 15 Jul 2011 14:04

    Adding my voice to what I hope will be a torrent of disapproval in response to the axing of AMERICANA . I can add little to the arguments put succinctly by "newlach " . Give him/her a medal.
    I can claim some moral high ground as the BLACKMORE VALE magazine recently published my defence of CLARE IN THE COMMUNITY against an unwarranted attack (I am no kneejerk opponent of comedy !) . This week my letter has been endorsed by a Radio 4 listener and fan who refers to the "timeless excellence " of AMERICANA .

    The Controller'slanguage is interesting . She has "decided to extend WORLD AT ONE " . As for AMERICANA, it "is closing", as though the programme itself has made the decision !

    One of the assets of AMERICANA is the coherence of each programme around a particular theme : the space race or the U.S. small town for example .
    Why axe a programme that is terrific (the Controller's term) and plainly successful ?

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  • Comment number 43. Posted by Kenneth

    on 12 Jul 2011 13:34

    Rory Bremner, eh? Yet another left wing performer on Radio 4?

    Nobody can accuse Radio 4 of not being consistent

    Is there any chance of some balance?

    A right wing comedian, perhaps? Or is this too much to ask?

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  • Comment number 42. Posted by Joseph-Lockwood Walton

    on 12 Jul 2011 07:06

    I love listening to radio 4, last night I just couldn't go to sleep it was so interesting (can't remember what programme) I am going to continue watching radio 4, tonight I am looking forward to Astronists radio programme.

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