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A new Controller for Radio 4

Thursday 15 July 2010, 13:00

Tim Davie Tim Davie Director of Audio & Music

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Gwyneth Williams, new Controller of BBC Radio 4

Over the past two months I've been searching for a new Controller for Radio 4 and Radio 7. This is no simple task; Radio 4 is a unique cultural institution with a passionate audience and incredibly talented staff. Leading it is a huge honour. As I wrote here at the start of the process, Mark Damazer - Radio 4's current Controller - has managed to sustain buoyant audiences without compromising the quality of programmes, so I am well aware of the importance of finding the right person to follow in the exceptional Mr Damazer's footsteps.

I saw some outstanding candidates during the recruitment process; brilliant leaders from a broad range of backgrounds, all with hugely impressive experience. This week we entered the final stage of the lengthy process and today we announced on Radio 4 that the successful candidate is Gwyneth Williams, until recently Director of BBC World Service English.

Gwyneth is an editorial leader of the highest calibre and a passionate supporter of Radio 4. She brings vast broadcasting experience, tremendous intelligence and a fresh perspective to the role. I was impressed by her creativity, enthusiasm and ideas for building the network's intellectual quality while maintaining its relevance.

This is one of the biggest jobs in broadcasting and I believe I have found the right person to succeed Mark Damazer. I look forward to working with her in building on Mark's success and leading Radio 4 to even greater things over coming years.

Tim Davie is Director of BBC Audio & Music

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Comments

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    Comment number 1.

    Big shoes to fill, given how good Radio 4 already is.

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    Comment number 2.

    Thank goodness Damazer has gone, can we have sailing by back now PLEASE?

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    Comment number 3.

    She looks really nice - but wasn't "articulate" one of the job requirements? I'm average thick, but not inspired with confidence yet - too many "umms" per sq inch.

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    Comment number 4.

    I hope the new Controller of Radio 4 will look at the Play schedule on Radio 4. There are not enough and not enough repeats.

    1. I would much prefer to hear an hour long Afternoon Play.
    2. I would like the Saturday Play to be repeated on say a Monday afternoon. As far as I can see it is never repeated.
    3. Similarly I would like the Classic Serial to be broadcast on an afternoon during the week i.e. Monday to Friday.
    Yes I can listen again, but I would prefer just to switch on my Radio.


    in the afternoons. I would like

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    Comment number 5.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, no more music programmes (they belong on R1, R2, R3, R6), fewer arts and religious programmes and MORE science programmes (replace the wretched Front Row with a daily science programme). Radio 4 is a SPOKEN WORD service, PLEASE RESTORE IT TO ITS ROOTS.

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    Comment number 6.

    Congratulations to Ms Williams.

    One humble request on a contentious decision that was even raised in the House:

    PLEASE CONSIDER REINSTATING THE RADIO 4 UK THEME.

    Clearly there's great demand for this "peotic & pastoral" piece (Damazer).

    I believe you'll find the vast majority of licence paying larks would appreciate the return of THE UK THEME.

    Hopefully that's not too much to ask without another petition.

    Being roused by a national medley is the way to start the day.

    Thank you.

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    Comment number 7.

    Good luck Gwyneth. Now would you please ask your presenters/newsreaders to talk about elections/competitions instead of races, when no-one has to date explained where the winning post is in an election, and to refrain from back-to-back events which are illogical as the start of event one would be followed by the finish of event two, when what is really meant is consecutive. I am tired of being embarrassed and irritated by such unprofessionalism from people representing a beloved and previously respected institution?

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    Comment number 8.

    Congrats Gwyneth. And: in spite of how we might sometimes appear we don't mind you occasionally moving some of the furniture; just as long as you do it one item at a time.. And yes, Sailing By is a marvellous bookend; but it does need its opposite number the UK Theme. I didn't have many complaints about Mark Damazer, but his opening "pacy news briefing" was a real failure: not just rearranging the furniture, but removing the porch from the front door. It still doesn't really work very well, and needs attention.

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    Comment number 9.

    I'd like to also request the return of the UK Theme

    and to stop the trails to the Neil McGregor's a History of the world in 100 objects. We heard it all last year. Isn't it enough to promote it online?

    And Neil McGregor's droaning voice makes me dive for FiveLive or BBC R7.

    Why didn't Mark get a good voice to read Neils script?

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    Comment number 10.

    I'd love a return to the continuity announcers handling the Shipping Forecast.

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    Comment number 11.

    I was relieved to hear Gwyneth Williams point out that the BBC World Service broadcasts its programmes by a whole variety of means (though there was a row when they cut off Short Wave transmissions to North America). So I won't rubbish DAB radio (except to remark that reception only a couple of miles from the city-centre of Glasgow is poor), but simply urge that, unless their cost seriously contributes to the national deficit, FM transmissions should continue.

    And by the way, this is another Golden Age of newscasters. The women slightly have the edge on the men, and Charlotte Green is the doyenne. But for sheer cool professionalism they can't be faulted (BBC7 continuity "personalities" please note!).

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    Comment number 12.

    I'd like her revert back to old Radio 4 website.
    Far too much space is taken up with pictures which slightly ironic given that it's an audio broadcast.
    Nothing wrong with pictures when you click through to a programme but not so many on the front page please.

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    Comment number 13.

    I've just got 3 things to ask:

    1. Please don't dumb down.
    2. Please don't dumb down.
    3. Please don't dumb down.

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    Comment number 14.

    Well if Ms. Williams has a fraction of Ms. Helen Boaden’s enthusiasm and barometric sensitivity for radio – and I suspect she has - then I am all in favour of the appointment. The World Service has been transmitting some exceptional programmes over the last couple of years.

    I hope Ms Williams devotes time thinking about how to recruit new R4 listeners (but not via comedy programmes), rather than placating all the old miseries who wear vests and turn-ups on their trousers. Dr. Gwyneth Lewis’s ‘A Voyage To Lundy’ was a good recruitment programme.

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    Comment number 15.

    Am I right in questioning the BBC's (aka the manager of the taxpayer's money) have an obsession with Alasdair Campbell? Yet again he's on the BBC radio 4 this morning! I thought Fi Glover's comments at the end of the programme quite insulting and patronising. I haven't met anyone who likes this man-ever. Yet the BBC continuously promote him, his writing, ask his opinion etc. If it wasn't for the BBC, he wouldn't make a living. He wouldn't survive in a true commercial environment. He's snide to say the least. Why do the BBC continue to give him and his books etc so much air time? What hold does he have? Who's interested in him? He's well and truly past it as a subject of interest. Get some young talent on.

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    Comment number 16.

    Replying to Message 15

    I hope Ms. Williams relinquishes R4’s obsessive control of 'Feedback' when she takes up her new role. I’d like to know more about the role of agents within R4 – and Feedback should cover such topics. I, too, heard this morning’s programme and was as puzzled as you concerning Mr. C’s appearance. He’s already presented one R4 programme about Jacques Brel. It’s not as if radio has ever been important within his life. I also wondered why Saturday Live isn’t renamed ‘London Live’.

    Ms. Williams is going to be a very busy lady!

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    Comment number 17.

    The main point of conversation in the pub last night on the matter concerned Thought For The Day. Extreme views were aired, but their was majority in favour of scrapping it and a vocal minority in favour of opening it up to people of no faith.

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    Comment number 18.

    Radio 4 used to be the home service and should remain so. Please do not turn our beloved Radio 4 into a "World Service Lite"

    There are too many monotonous stories and plays. These could be replaced with classic poetry read by professional readers.
    Please have music programmes discussing classic 60s music that is of more interest than jazz.

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    Comment number 19.

    Message 18

    "Please have music programmes discussing classic 60s music that is of more interest than jazz".

    Yes, R4 does have serious problems with the production of interesting music features. I thought the programme about Hip-Hop in China was exceptional; The Archive Hour devoted to the mods was very poor, with no reference to Steve Marriott. 'The Music Group' is a two stroke programme, especially when the presenter is spotted taking part in ‘Quote Unquote’. You could devote a whole edition of The Archive Hour to the history of The Incredible String Band. Poetry and music works on R4 (e.g. the R4 programme about Tam Lin worked well). Music connected with monumental events also work on R4 (e.g. The R4 programme about the Kent State murders – Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ was played throughout the programme)

    How should Ms Williams address your concern, without the programme sounding as though it should be transmitted on R2, 6 Music or R1?

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    Comment number 20.

    19. Lawrence Jones

    The 1960s were a very innovative era and yet there is very little discussion of the music and performers of this time.

    Yet Radio 4 drones on about jazz which has been pushed by the BBC for all my life. I would like 60s music discussed as a part of social history and this does not mean endless playing of the "Classic Hits" I would like proper discussion about the lyrics, the band members and the rapidly changing times. For instance Bob Dylans early 60s stuff and through to Pink Floyd at the decades end.

    Now I have never heard discussion of this type on Radio 2.

 

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