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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 10:37, Thursday, 23 July 2009

Kathy Clugston, Fran Barnes, Elvis Costello and Evan Davis on Radio 4

The blog is picking up momentum. In addition to regular posts from our Controller (35 posts so far - about six per month) we've had 128 posts all together, from programme makers, presenters, commissioners, managers and even a handful of outsiders (like yesterday's lovely post by Margie Tunbridge, a 'plinther').There have been lots of housekeeping posts and round-ups and behind-the-scenes photos from me and a really gripping two-month flurry of posts and comments and responses all about the Radio 4 web site's redesign (Doh! I've mentioned it again).

We've tackled some fairly big topics (at least in Radio 4-Land), like the cancellation of Go 4 It, repeats, commissioning (or not commissioning) political drama, pulling a programme at the last minute and giving airtime to controversial figures.

And one of the exciting things about airing these issues on the blog is the breadth and quality of listener feedback that results - I'd invite you to follow the links above and read the comments. I always make sure that the right people at Radio 4 are aware of these useful and well-informed responses: they're important. The biggest topic so far? The web site redesign, by several miles (and especially the size of the pictures). That produced over 500 comments. I've answered (and sometimes failed to answer) dozens of direct questions from listeners, usually by ferreting out the right person at the network and asking them. In this, I think I'm something between a 'listeners' editor' and a customer service rep.

So, I'm just planning the next couple of weeks on the blog and I've already got posts lined up from Food Programme presenter Sheila Dillon, veteran BBC business guru Peter Day, legendary actress Miriam Margolyes and a post about BBC Security correspondent Gordon Corera's new spies programme so it's all looking very interesting indeed.

What I'd like to know from you, though, is who else I should get to write for the blog and which subjects I should tackle? Do you want to hear more from behind-the-scenes at Radio 4? More programme previews and posts from Radio 4 talent? Or would you rather we focused more on accountability and feedback: keeping the network honest? And how about our use of Twitter? Have you tried it? Would you like to see more or less of this sort of thing?

Or should we be doing something else all together? Please leave a comment here on the blog or, if you're that way inclined, send us a message on Twitter. I'll round up responses here on the blog once a few have come in.

  • The Radio 4 group on flickr has pictures from all over Radio 4.

  • The picture shows four Radio 4 figures: Kathy Clugston, announcer, with her Ukulele in a Broadcasting House studio, Fran Barnes, producer and beekeeper, with the Farming Today bees, Elvis Costello on Loose Ends and Evan Davis, recording The Bottom Line.

  • Follow the Radio 4 blog on Twitter for interesting news, reviews, replies and retweets.


  • Comment number 1.

    One of the most interesting uses of blogs, for me, is hearing from people you otherwise would not. Producers, producers' assistants - perhaps some of the younger guys. As someone in media myself, but who's fairly ignorant about radio, I'd love to read a diary of exactly how a radio show goes from conception to the airwaves. When it's time to air it, what happens? Which buttons are pressed? Are the pre-recorded ones on MP3 or WAV or minidisc? Where do you get the sound effects from, if you use them, and who decides what should be used? How many people are in the studio for a particular show - just one, if it's pre-recorded?

    Things like that would be fascinating. Behind the scenes account. Love the blog as a whole, though.

  • Comment number 2.

    The BBC will be at the vanguard of transparency when the top 100 execs regularly blog their views and decisions.

  • Comment number 3.

    How about discussing making Radio 4 more relevant on digital radio? What a shame it is that so much content is created and then locked in the ghetto is that Radio 4.

    Yes, the stuffy 1950s "classic" style of Radio 4 presentation with it's pips and bongs is very "authoritative", surely the programmes could benefit from scheduling in a "remix" station (there's loads of space on DAB!) providing more choice (like a men's hour at 10am, drama and comedy for breakfast) with a more up-to-date presentational style?

    An alternative station, with an alternative web-view, but with similar content could make Auntie's programmes go further, and protect Radio 4 budgets!

  • Comment number 4.

    Commenting on message 1

    With the exception of Messrs Ed Morrish and Simon Clancy, R4 producers have never supported the R4 messageboards, so its highly unlikely theyd support a blog.
    Witness my experiences: since 2001 when I first joined the R4 messageboards I did, on average (well up to 2007 before finally giving up), place two postings year, inviting R4 producers, editors, commissioning editors and controllers to place a short posting/essay, detailing their own radio journey, influential programmes/presenters that fostered their determination to follow a career within radio. Guess how many members of R4 actually replied? Yes, not one person with R4 associations could be bothered to tap away at a keyboard for a just few minutes. Doesnt suggest much enthusiasm for radio does it? Even when R4 programmes and producers have been assigned messageboards to their programmes, theyve still refused to support the mesaageboard . Pick of The Week MB was a good example. In particular, one female producer of POTW refused to support her board and never placed one identifiable posting during a two year tenure. Just 3 people me included attempted to keep that board alive throughout the whole of its lifetime.

    Another topic relating to R4 producers and this has arisen quite a few times over the years on the MBs - concerns the ratio of female to male producers. A crude inspection, suggests the male/female ratio (at R4) to be about 0.6. Now its quite rare to find a female with an intense love, knowledge and feel for radio, so how has this occurred? Even if one recalls school, dole or university experiences, it was always the males whod provide the detailed analysis of the broadcaster and their programmes.

  • Comment number 5.

    It's time we heard about The Archers Steve. I see no "Archers" in your tag list. So lets get the lovely Ms Whitburn to step forward and do a little ditty.

    (Of course .. if it turns out I haven't looked far enough in this blog for the Archers related posts then I am quite happy to be suitably punished for my laziness and rank stupidity.)

  • Comment number 6.

    Instead of the relatively trivial matters suggested on the Feedback web page I think its about time the BBC Trust was held accountable for some fundamental policies -

    I would like to suggest to Sir Michael Lyons that the BBC Trustees should include a majority of ordinary people.

    I propose this because the BBC is not impartial. Nor does it reflect or respond to the views of the vast majority of licence-fee-payers.

    As others 'insiders', like Andrew Marr and Jeremy Paxman - have pointed out , it is riddled with institutional liberal elitism.

    The Trust has failed to tackle this fundamental deficiency because its members are part of the same social class that runs the BBC and are just as remote from the millions of ordinary licence fee payers as the executives and producers.

    This must be put right before the BBC loses all support. And the only way it can be corrected is by having a majority of randomly selected ordinary people as Trustees to guide the BBC back being to the respected institution it once was.

  • Comment number 7.

    To oldtedw.

    "And the only way it can be corrected is by having a majority of randomly selected ordinary people as Trustees to guide the BBC back to being the respected institution it once was"

    Alternatively you just make the process more transparent. Social media is so useful and transformative that the Trust has decided not to use it.

  • Comment number 8.

    oldtedw: Bear in mind that the four national trustees (England, Scotland, Wales, NI) also chair the Audiences Councils for England, Scotland, Wales and NI, each of which is populated with eleven or so normal people (like me in Northern Ireland) who advise them as Trustees and through them advise the Trust.

    Kind of the voice of the licence fee payers. And we do quite a lot of engagement with ordinary listeners, viewers and browsers as well as organisations relevant to the consultation responses we're sending to the Trust and other work that we kick off ourselves.

    (By the way, although we apply in response to adverts places looking for new AC members, go through an interview process before being appointed, it's a voluntary position and not paid!)

    You'll find out more information about the four Audience Councils (and the English Regional Advisory Councils) at:



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