Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

Castaways found online and on Radio 4 Extra in BBC plans for digital radio

Kirsty Young

The BBC is to launch an online collection of more than 500 episodes of Desert Island Discs alongside the choices of every single castaway, to coincide with the launch of BBC Radio 4 Extra in April.

The archive will allow fans to download the last 500 complete episodes and will list the choices – music, books and luxury – of every guest since 1942. Classic editions will also be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra, curated by Kirsty Young, who will update and contextualise each interview. In addition, the station – the relaunched Radio 7 – will broadcast special, hour-long versions of episodes from the past year with previously edited material. Both Radio 4 Extra and the archive will launch in April.

Tim Davie, Director of BBC Audio & Music, announced the details today while outlining the BBC's plans for digital radio. He described a range of measures to offer listeners exclusive, high quality content in a simple way that makes better use of existing programme and station brands, improved DAB coverage, more ways to listen and a commitment to drive innovation, such as HD Sound.

Announcing the launch of Radio 4 Extra, he explained how plans for the station reflect the approach of aligning digital-only networks more closely with analogue "sister" stations – exploiting the strength of existing programmes and network brands – with the exception of BBC 6 Music which, with a clear identity and strong brand, will remain a "stand alone" music network.

Mr Davie placed the emphasis firmly on quality content and unveiled further digital-only programming including:

  • The Now Show Extra and The News Quiz Extra – extended versions of the shows on Radio 4 Extra, featuring behind-the-scenes interviews with the show's writers, producers and guests
  • Family Hour (working title) on Radio 4 Extra, featuring quizzes, stories, comedies and interviews. New dramas to be enjoyed by all ages include The Silver Sword and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Comedy First – part of the comedy club, premiering new comedy to be broadcast first on Radio 4 Extra before transferring to Radio 4. Will include a new series of Arthur Smith's Balham Bash and Sarah Millican's Support Group
  • Adam and Joe on 6 Music – the popular duo and their "black squadron" are to return to Saturday mornings in Spring
  • This follows the recent announcement that Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie are to join the network
  • The launch of a new 1Xtra Live Lounge hosted by Trevor Nelson, featuring 1Xtra artists including Jessie J and Taio Cruz from March
  • This builds on the schedule changes made at Radio 1Xtra earlier this year
  • Chris Evans will host live coverage of Masters golf on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra in April
  • The network will also cover at least ten different sports in March with more than 200 hours of live sport

In addition, he outlined some steps to make listening to the digital-only services easier, including a commitment to keep building out national DAB coverage towards FM equivalence, continuing to develop new ways of listening – like the Radioplayer – and offering more innovation such as HD Sound, which will be rolled out more widely this year.

Announcing the plans, Tim Davie said: "This is a collection of simple measures, designed with listeners' interests in mind, to strengthen digital radio. I'm delighted to announce the launch of BBC Radio 4 Extra and hope that fans of Desert Island Discs will indulge themselves in the previously buried treasures of vintage episodes."

Desert Island Discs presenter Kirsty Young said: "Desert Island Discs occupies a special place in many listeners' hearts – its enduring popularity throughout the decades testifies to that. I'm really delighted that BBC Radio 4 Extra will give people the chance to hear even more of the show and the launch of the new website means everyone has the chance get their hands on the Desert Island Discs archive and hear the music, book, luxury and lives of hundreds of castaways from programmes gone by. A real treat."

Notes to Editors

BBC 7 launched in December 2002. It was renamed BBC Radio 7 in October 2008. It is to relaunch in April as BBC Radio 4 Extra. The digital network is the principal outlet for the BBC's archive of speech entertainment, including comedy, drama and readings.

Desert Island Discs has a unique place in British cultural life. It was created by Roy Plomley in 1942, the first presenter of the programme which now has a weekly reach of nearly three million listeners. Only three other people have presented the programme – Michael Parkinson, Sue Lawley and the current presenter, Kirsty Young. The simple format, inviting guests to choose eight pieces of music they would take with them to a desert island, has often resulted in fascinating and insightful interviews.

The online archive will be found via the Radio 4 website from April.

The Desert Island Discs programmes on Radio 4 Extra are titled as follows:

  • Desert Island Discs – The Archive Collection: Archive editions of Desert Island Discs will be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra. Curated by Kirsty Young who will update and contextualise each interview, the programmes will be broadcast in themed series
  • Desert Island Discs Selection(w/t): extended repeats from the past year will be broadcast when the programme is off Radio 4's airwaves (approximately 10 weeks a year).

The measures outlined for digital-only networks were as follows:

  • The digital-only networks will continue to offer exclusive, high quality content, but will better exploit the familiarity and popularity of existing BBC radio shows to encourage listening to digital services
  • Research shows familiar programmes, artists and formats are one of the best ways of encouraging people to try digital services and experiment with news ways of listening
  • Clearly this does not preclude offering brand new, exclusive content across digital networks
  • Radio 1Xtra, Radio 4 Extra and 5 Live Sports Extra will be aligned more closely with their sister stations and clearly presented as "sub-brands" or extensions of analogue stations.
  • Historically, only Sports Extra has been marketed in this way and has the highest awareness of digital-only networks by some way as a result
  • Since aligning Radio 1Xtra more closely with Radio 1 in the past year – both on-air and in marketing – the digital network has seen an increase in awareness from 22% to 35%
  • 6 Music is to become a "stand alone" network, maintaining it current distinct positioning
  • BBC network radio continues to offer Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and 6 Music as distinct music radio brands
  • 6 Music will be run separately from Radio 1 and Radio 2, with even clearer distinction of its music policy and its public service role within the music radio portfolio

NB. Networks which use digital and analogue platforms – such as the Asian Network, the BBC World Service and the BBC's local and national networks – will be looked at separately as this plan concentrates on the portfolio of digital-only brands, which were all created as a direct response to the opportunity presented by digital radio broadcasting.

DAB National Transmitter rollout:

  • In 2010 the BBC launched 30 new national DAB transmitters in the UK, adding three quarters of a million people to the network and improving DAB coverage for over 8.5 million people
  • The 2010 expansion included five new transmitters in Northern Ireland, improving reception for a fifth of the population and increasing DAB coverage from 75% to 85%, with further improvements this year.
  • The BBC has launched seven new transmitters so far this year, adding 180 000 people to the DAB network and improving coverage for over one and three quarters of a million people.
  • There will be another 40 national transmitters launched in 2011, helping to achieve the target of DAB network coverage for 92% of the population by the end of the year


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