As I’ve said previously we do not publish production budgets. I appreciate that this isn’t a satisfactory response for some of you. I can tell that you that moderation of The Archers message board constitutes more than 90% of the moderation budget for all of BBC Radio and is regularly higher than the moderation costs of all of BBC News.
Where interaction helps make programmes better I think the BBC does a very good job. Many BBC programmes interact brilliantly with their audiences: off the top of my head, all of BBC Radio 5 live and Radio 1, TV programmes such as Springwatch and Stargazing Live are just a few examples.
Yours is certainly an interesting proposal but one I think is unlikely to be adopted within BBC Online’s overall strategy.
Your idea raises the wider question – should the BBC be in the business of hosting online communities? The answer, I think is, probably not.
What you propose is rather similar to what the BBC once offered. We used to have message boards on many different topics including the ones you mention - gardening, books, food and music.
Running successful online communities is a time-consuming task that requires significant expertise (Tayler and Keri have both been terrific hosts on The Archers board). As you point out, increasing the number of message boards we host would increase our costs.
The overall BBC strategy in recent years has been to do “fewer things, better”. For BBC Online this has meant closing websites that had relatively low numbers of users, are not directly connected to BBC output or are replicated by other sites in the market.
Instead we’ve concentrated on sites like iPlayer, a more streamlined offer for radio (including a great smartphone app) and covering big events such as The Olympics.
Where the subject matter of BBC programmes could generate a significant need for some members of the audience to seek additional information or advice we do use Action Line or direct people to outside organisations far more qualified than us (more info here >> http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/news/news-2011-09-29).
The BBC is simply not equipped to provide that level of professional support, especially on message boards, which are monitored 24/7, actively hosted and have rules that are rightly stricter than most online spaces.
Your suggestion of this being funded by a small subscription is not possible under the existing way the BBC funded via the licence fee.
I do thank you for your imaginative suggestion and hope that some of the community benefits you’ve mentioned will be found in other forums such as Peet’s Place and Archers Addicts.
As I said above The Archers website is an important part of the Radio 4 online service and we will continue to invest in it. However we must ensure that this investment represents good value for a large number of users. We are therefore focussing on activities that will reach the greatest number of existing Archers enthusiasts and potential new fans.