BBC Radio 4

    Moving the furniture at Radio 4

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    You change Radio 4 at your peril, for the slightest alteration to the schedule is likely to produce a rebellion, and not just in the Home Counties. David Hatch, Controller from 1983 to 1986, learned that the hard way when he introduced Rollercoaster, which almost ran him over.

    His successor Michael Green, (1986-1996) had to summon up all his courage when he decided to move Woman's Hour from the early afternoon to the morning. He was attacked from without and within, won through, but still has the scars to show for it.

    The Controller who made the most significant changes to the Radio 4 schedule in the last 30 years, and arguably ever, was James Boyle (1996-2000). Widely reviled at the time, many of his changes have stood the test of time and he is held in considerable respect by his successors, but he soon retired hurt to Scotland.

    His successor, Helen Boaden, (2000 - 2004) now Director of News, was told not to make waves and instead go round hugging and reassuring the staff, which she did to great effect. Mark Damazer (2004 - 2010) a history graduate and Americophile, changed the content to suit his interests and cleared the decks for The History of the World in 100 Objects, but it is his successor, the present Controller who has proposed making the most radical changes since Mac Birt (James Boyle).

    Gwyneth Williams is proposing, among other things, to extend the World at One by 15 minutes, and moving programmes like Feedback to 4.30pm. She is cancelling series like The Choice, Taking a Stand and Americana, introducing a new science show and trimming the number of short stories, much to the disgust of celebrities like Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley.

    All this, of course, before she has to implement any cuts which may result from Delivering Quality First initiative which has to save 20 per cent of the BBC's budget. This week Ms Williams came into the Feedback studio to answer listeners' questions.

    Feedback is now off the air until September 16th - but please don't stop writing to us.

    Roger Bolton is presenter of Feedback

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