Friday 12 July 2013, 16:46
Here at Feedback we have just had our largest postbag since the controversy over the coverage of the death of Lady Thatcher. This time it concerns a fictional death, that of Paul in The Archers and the revelation that his brother Matt knew all about his relationship with Matt’s lover, Lilian. A case of one woman, two brothers, two lovers.
Actually we had all twigged that Matt knew but that Lilian did not know that Matt knew, if you are still with me. The scene in which he revealed his knowledge to Lilian was an absolute cracker, brilliantly acted by the key participants. The problem was that you had to listen to another related programme, Ambridge Extra, to hear it. And for that you needed to be able to listen digitally.
The revelation was reported in the Archers on Radio 4 when Lilian told Jolene all about it, but that was like reading a newspaper report of a crucial sports match that you couldn’t attend, or the review of a play you hadn’t seen. One can understand the dilemma.
Ambridge Extra gives The Archers’ writers the opportunity to run storylines at greater length and to explore and develop newer or younger characters. And the digital channel has come a long way in recent years. Audiences have grown significantly, and the hope is that fresh story lines will attract even more Archers addicts over to 4 Extra.
However, as the present BBC Director of Radio, Helen Boaden, said this week “The BBC must not get ahead of its audience”. Many of our listeners feel that in this case the Corporation has.
The problem is that only 25% of overall listening is done on digital, and at least 50% of homes still do not have even one digital radio receiver.
Even those homes which have digital tend to have, in addition, several analogue radios and unlike when watching television, radio listeners tend to move from room to room or into the garden or the car while listening, and they expect to be able to hear the same programme wherever they are.
Much of the correspondence we received revealed real anger and upset amongst those who could not hear the Matt Lilian confrontation at first hand, and who fear they will be excluded from other crucial scenes in the future.
By the way, next Tuesday the BBC Trust will publish the BBC’s Annual Report. It will then be available on the Trust’s website. This follows this Wednesday’s admission to Parliament by the Chairman, Lord Patten, that he and his colleagues felt “shock and dismay” over some recent executive pay outs, and the new Director General Tony Hall’s statement that the BBC had “lost the plot” over executive pay in the recent past.
The report should make interesting reading and we hope to have one of the BBC leaders on next week’s Feedback. After all we are one of the key ways BBC “share holders” can attempt to hold the Corporation to account. Please help us to do so by writing to us or phoning with your questions and concerns.
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