BBC Radio 4

    In defence of trails

    Editor's note: this week's item from Feedback, Radio 4's weekly accountability programme, concerns the highly contentious issue of trails. Putting his head in the lion's mouth to defend them is network manager, Denis Nowlan. Brave man - SB

    What is it about trails that so excites or rather inflames the Feedback listener? This week as I entered the office I could feel the heat radiating off the incandescent emails.

    The immediate cause was an interview I did last week with the deputy Editor of the Today programme, Jon Zilkha. A few days before, a BBC weather forecaster had had to cut his pre-8 a.m. bulletin from its standard 90 seconds length to a truncated 20 seconds. The reason was that a live discussion about the BBC itself had overrun, in listeners' view an increasingly common occurrence.

    Of course another option would have been to drop the trail instead. Mr Zilkha defended the decision to cut the forecast and went on to suggest that for many listeners trails are just as important as the weather. Many of our correspondents were incredulous about that assertion.

    "If he can actually find a listener who would rather listen to a trailer then hear a weather forecast, I"ll buy him a drink" wrote Colin Williams.

    Deborah Bull told us "You are a public service and a decent weather forecast is part of that. There is no justification for preferring to run trails instead".

    Peter Simpkin said "I hope you will follow up with a direct question to the Controller R4... is the 5-to-8 trailer more important than the weather by higher command?"

    Well the Controller was not available but the official defender of trails was. He is the Network Manager of Radio 4, Denis Nowlan. Listen to his defence of trails and tell us what you think in a comment:

    By the way the latest RAJAR figures show that Radio 4 has just had its best listening figures ever, and that those for Radio 3 have gone down a little. I think there must have been a General Election.

    Roger Bolton presents Feedback on BBC Radio 4


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