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Schedule changes on Radio 4

Sunday 10 July 2011, 13:10

Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams

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Martha Kearney

Presenter Martha Kearney. The World at One will be extended as part of a range of Autumn schedule changes.

Rather a busy week here at Radio 4. It was ten to five on Thursday when we heard about The News of the World closing down. I am in the middle of our annual commissioning round and so was in close conversation with Jeremy Howe, drama commissioner, and Tony Pilgrim, maestro scheduler. We stopped our discussion of Ulysses and thought instead (with sympathy) of Eddie Mair drafting his opening sentence. I could count on him not to say 'hacked to death'.

I wandered upstairs to the Media Show to suggest a special the next day - noon we agreed if Steve were up for it. He was of course (Steve Hewlett that is, the guru for this and other media tales). I was back in time to hear Eddie introduce what has to have been one of the best PM programmes (or any programme) on a breaking story for quite a while. And yes, Steve was with Eddie, to add his sixpence. Then back to, where were we, oh yes ... moving on to Trollope.

This blog is really about Radio 4 this Autumn. We have some new programmes and a schedule change coming up. I have decided to extend The World At One. With the faster development of stories following Today (especially now that Parliament sits in the morning) there simply is not enough time to cover the full news agenda, both foreign and domestic. The excellent Martha Kearney runs out of time when she is just getting going - and besides I have got tired of extending WATO every time a story breaks. This has happened too often since I have been here and listeners get fed up if they are looking forward to other planned programmes.

All these programmes remain, by the way, in the new schedule; they are simply (for the most part) put into the afternoon after the play at three o'clock (details are below). We are also launching new comedy on Sunday night: John Finnemore in his first solo show. I am thrilled to have new political satire from Rory Bremner on Radio 4, Tonight, which starts Thursday nights and will repeat into the Sunday slot, and Sue Perkins with a new panel game, Dilemma - and there's more to come.

We will have a new science programme on Tuesday mornings at nine o clock presented by the physicist, Jim al-Khalili, with the aim of getting us up to speed on the science and scientists that are changing the world we live in - who knows, I might even be able to understand the introduction to my daughter's PhD by the end of the first series. A new 15-minute interview programme called One to One will (some have said, alarmingly) let presenters follow their passions. Americana is closing. It is a terrific programme and has done well, taking us deeper into some of that vast country's untold stories. I will certainly continue to commission programmes about the US - it is after all the world's superpower and has huge impact on us here in the UK - as well as on other parts of the world, including building up our European coverage. Readings will diminish but we will add some on to Radio 4Extra and we will continue to brag about our brilliant Radio 4 short stories and back the BBC National Short Story Award to the hilt.

This job is about choices. I have made some. I hope they keep Radio 4 listeners happy and listening.

Gwyneth Williams is Controller of BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra

Details of the Radio 4 schedule changes.

  • The last time The World At One duration was changed was in 1998 when it was reduced from 40 minutes to half an hour.
  • The Life Scientific will be broadcast on Tuesday mornings from 9-9.30am, after which One to One will run for 15 minutes.
  • The narrative history series will move from its 3.45pm slot to 1.45pm, following on from The World At One. The first series at the new time will be A History of the Brain, presented by Professor Geoff Bunn.
  • Rory Bremner's show Tonight will be broadcast from Sunday 16th October at 7.45pm (originated Thursday before at 11pm).
  • From November, the short stories (currently running at 3.30pm, Tuesday-Thursday) will be rescheduled with some broadcast at 3.45pm on Friday and some at 7.45pm on Sunday.
  • From next spring, the number of short stories will be reduced from three to one a week on Radio 4. There will also be readings on Radio 4 Extra.
Those programmes that followed The World At One at 1.30pm will, on the whole, be broadcast between 3-5pm, from 7th November. The reorganisation of the afternoon schedule will be run along the following lines:

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    Comment number 1.

    I think it is a shame that the 1.30 programmes are being relocated. I enjoy listening to the Monday quiz,Tuesday music based programme and the others during my lunch hour. If you want more lunchtime news you can switch to Radio 5. Half and hour of news is enough at lunchtime.

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    Comment number 2.

    There will also be readings on Radio 4 Extra.

    Will these be new readings?


  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    So afternoon reading is for the chop:
    first reduced to 3 days from 5 and now to two at weekends
    then zero next spring.
    Happy schedule changes!

    This will be okay if the R4Xtra readings production keeps up.
    But since the time of BBC7 there has always been a tendency there
    to repeat, repeat,repeat and not guarantee new stuff every week

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    Comment number 4.

    changes are always going to produce protest, as what people like is that today is the same as yesterday. It should be seen that the world changes, and that radio 4 needs to change to accommodate. Good luck on the new schedules.

    Personally, I'm just hoping that somewhere in there a new series of the fantasy afternoon play Pilgrim has been scheduled somewhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I am really sad that Americana is closing I found it to be consistantly interesting in that all important 'cooking the tea' slot of the day. It is the only Radio 4 programme that has inspired me, on more than one occasion, to get on the web and look at the accompanying pictures. I have no personsal connections to the USA, i just liked to hear about ordinary people and places ,we usually just hear about their politics.


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