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Editor's note: I asked Leigh, Radio 4's interactive editor, to share some ideas about things from the Radio 4 archive that listeners might enjoy over the summer and in particular programmes that they could download, put on their MP3 player or mobile phone to enjoy on their travels - PM.

One of the most highly appreciated services we offer on the Radio 4 website is archive programme collections. You can listen online to everything we broadcast for at least 7 days after transmission but we're able to make quite a number of our programmes available in perpetuity, and have started to build some bigger archive collections.

Highlights from the past year include:

And we haven't stopped there. In the last few months, a little more under the radar, we've been building out some other programme audio archives back to around 2007, including:

The range of subjects and guests within these collections is an embarrassment of riches that will fill many happy weeks and months of listening. Radio 4 listeners won't need a recommendation from me to explore them. And there'll be more to come.

One way in which we can make this service even more useful is by making the audio portable. As a rule, more people choose to download our programmes than listen in real time via the website.

The advantages of downloading programmes are several:

  • the programmes are yours to keep forever
  • once downloaded you don't have to be online to listen to them
  • you can transfer them to portable and mobile devices and therefore you're not tied to a computer to listen
And I think that last point is increasingly important for digital audiences.

So we're starting to offer more of our archive content in this way, notably with the 500+ available editions of Desert Island Discs. There's no better holiday listening for speech radio fans so make sure you download some programmes to take with you on your mp3 players this summer.

The Reith Lectures and 100 Objects are also downloadable, as are up to 50 different programmes each week. Next up will be the complete In Our Time downloads in September (by popular request).

If you're new to downloading, it's an easy habit to start - here's an introduction.

Leigh Aspin is Interactive Editor at BBC Radio 4

Here's a selection of Radio 4 podcasts to download and take on holiday with you (find them all here) Ones marked with a * have more than one episode available to download:
  • Play of the Week (updates on Fridays)
  • Friday Night Comedy - Currently the latest episode of Chain Reaction. The News Quiz takes over from the 9th September.
  • Comedy of the Week - A different comedy every week
  • Documentary of the Week updated on Fridays
  • Books and Authors* - featuring Open Book, Bookclub and A Good Read. 61 episodes at the moment.
  • Desert Island Discs* - there are over 540 episodes of DID you can download. The most recent 42 are here and all available episodes can be found here and can be searched in a variety of ways.
  • Great Lives* - currently 22 episodes are available
  • In our Time* - currently 42 episodes are available
  • Material World* - currently 49 episodes are available
  • More or Less* - currently 23 episodes are available
  • Reith lectures* - This year's are here; 1948-1975 are here and 1976-2010 are available here.
  • The Film Programme* - currently 45 episodes are available
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage* - currently 10 episodes are available
  • Thinking Allowed* - currently 49 episodes are available
  • Caption from the archive: "The Archers (R4): 1959 01/09/1959 © BBC Picture Shows: Church Fete in Ambridge in the summer of 1959 - Irene Prador as Madame Garonne(extreme left), Michael Shaw as Charles Grenville (centre), Courtney Hope as MrsTurvey and Harry Oakes as Dan Archer(extreme right)"

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Paul Murphy

    on 12 Aug 2011 15:11

    #1 and #2 Hi fitzsip

    I've pulled the questions out of your comments and asked the podcast team to give me their answers. If I've missed anything do let me know.

    Q: Why don't we update the Friday Comedy icons every week depending on what the programme is?
    A: We currently have two different podcast images for 'Friday Night Comedy' - which switches between the Now Show and the News Quiz. The podcast image changes depending on which series is currently being podcast. However, we are lacking an image while both are on a summer break and we are getting this sorted.

    Q: Why aren't they available for longer?
    A: Yes, the short answer is rights! We are actively working with rights organisations to enhance what we offer online for download as a podcast, but we need to do this at a pace that rights holders are comfortable with, and within the limits of what we can afford.

    Q: Why aren't any of the archive comedies (EG on 4 Extra) available as a podcast?
    A: Same answer as above sadly.

    Q: Is Infinite Monkey cage in the right category?
    A: The Infinite Monkey Cage appears under 'Factual' and the sub-category 'Science and Nature'. It's a hard one to categorise as it's an 'irreverent look at the world according to science' but this is where most people would probably look for it.

    Paul, R4 blog Ed

  • Comment number 2. Posted by fitzsip

    on 10 Aug 2011 16:25

    sorry to be a nit-picker but the infinate monkey cage is under "factual" when it is described as a scienc/comedy program?

    can somebody check that these great shows are actively place in the correct places so that listeners can easiyl find them. thankyou. carry on the good work!

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by fitzsip

    on 10 Aug 2011 16:21

    its great to see more things being available to download as podcast. my olny gripe - is that there really should be access to archive comedy - im sure the BBC holds the rights to some of it, and on a really picky note (sorry) but can the icons for show be updated as the friday night comedy always show 'punt & dennis' when is not the now show - it stops me from wanting to look any further into what the show is as the picture is misleading. currently comedy connections but more likely to be the news quiz.
    why cant they each have their own icon and be available for download for longer?

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