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Feedback: Closure of The Archers' Messageboard

Friday 15 February 2013, 15:54

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton, presenter of Feedback

When I was a BBC executive I had little patience with those who said that "there is so much more to the BBC than programmes." I was tempted to put a notice on my desk which said "It's the programmes, stupid".

That was in the pre digital age. Today I would still keep the notice but I'd consider adding a rider - "and the digital conversations that result."

My possible change of heart is due to my experience this week chairing a discussion on the upcoming closure of the Archers' message board and the furore that resulted.

On the face of it, not too many people are affected.

It's reckoned that only 1,000 people each week contribute to that message board and that perhaps around 10,000 visit it each week.

However for those people it is a vital part of their lives and many feel outraged that it is being taken away from them. The BBC says that with a reduced income  it has prioritised  providing new services such as the ability to download more Desert Island Discs programmes and 900 editions of Letter from America.

Twenty years ago not many people would have forecast that radio would still be central to so many millions of lives here in the UK and that its audiences would increase and not diminish.

(By the way I'm delighted that the BBC Director General  designate, Tony Hall, has decide to call the new boss of radio, Helen Boaden, Director of Radio, not of Audio and Music).

Who would have forecast that the Archers would remain so popular?

I'm a little surprised that I am feeling anxious for Lillian and even a little sorry for Matt. I do hope Elizabeth doesn't bankrupt herself over Lower Loxley, and dream that David will whisk Ruth off for a dirty weekend in Paris. (Actually I'm dreaming I would whisk Ruth off!)

I'm just off to explain to my wife it's not Ruth - it's the Geordie accent.

Roger Bolton


Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4.

Listen to this week's Feedback
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The Archers

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    Comment number 1.

    Roger, we need the support of people like you to help us save Mustardland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Thank you to Roger and the Feedback team for featuring the messageboard closure. And thank you to the ML representatives for doing such a good job.

    I am afraid Mr Smith has totally missed the point. His comment about the DID archive being a replacement was ridiculous. And his presumption that all Mustardlanders are 'older' listeners is incorrect. There are many younger contributors to the board. Some of us joined while still at school or university.

    It is a wonderful place. I will be totally bereft without it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Thank you Roger. We also have a petition on going at the moment that will be sent to the Minister of Culture amongst others. At present over 1000 people have signed over 3 days and we expect more over the weekend. The messages of support there are wonderful and the BBC should really read them and think again.

    The last thing the BBC needs at the moment is to alienate its audience even if we are only 10000 people

    The petition is still open at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/454/969/491/stop-the-closure-of-the-archers-message-board/#sign

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    Comment number 4.

    Dear Roger, I did get the feeling during the broadcast that you were coming to an understanding of what it is which makes the "Mustardland" boards so special. I wonder, I really do, why ten thousand is deemed so very small a number to be throwing out into the street.

    I know he wouldn't tell you how much the closure is prejected to save, but I can't help wondering how many pounds per person we spend on some of the Big Name broadcasters who don't give anything like as much pleasure (the radio being on in the backgroiund while people wash up) as the boards have given to so many ever since they started up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    There is so much more to Mustardland than responding to The Archers. The Village Hall is a support lifeline for many people. People with mental issues, alcoholics and those in recovery, cancer sufferers and copers. People suffering from stress and those trying to loose weight. Cat lovers and dog lovers, birdwatchers, cooking, coping with the menopause...I could go on and on. ML is the one true online community hosted by the BBC and its all going to be thrown away, in order to save £????. We don't know because it refuses to disclose any information.


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Find out about this year's panel and theme