« Previous | Main | Next »

The BBC strategic review on WATO

Post categories:

Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 18:55, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

It's been a big day at the BBC - this morning Director General Mark Thompson confirmed last week's leak to The Times and announced the recommendations of his strategic review of the Corporation's activities. The World at One with Martha Kearney gave nearly 13 minutes to the story this lunchtime. Here's the item in full. The review doesn't signal any change at Radio 4: the BBC's document says:

This strategy strongly endorses the current creative direction and editorial performance of Radio 4, Radio 3, Radio 1 and 5 Live. Radio 4, the original Home Service of the BBC, is unique in world radio in its quality and range...

But the proposed changes - which now enter a period of consultation conducted by the BBC Trust - will clearly, if accepted, change the shape of the Corporation substantially.

Steve Bowbrick is editor of the Radio 4 blog


  • Comment number 1.

    In this shake up, any chance of (trying to) get "The Financial World Tonight" - or what ever name it goes by these days - back in it's true home (and time slot) on R4 Steve, please?... R5 can have that excuse for 'comedy' you inflict on the majority of us at that time of might! :(

  • Comment number 2.

    Like many, we are outraged by the announcement regarding the proposed closure of BBC Six and the Asian Network.

    Whilst we have an understanding that all companies need, from time to time, to put their affairs and budget in order, we feel that this time, the BBC is being seriously unfair and short sighted. Not only that, but in the Scottish Borders, we have few enough digital stations as it is and, to loose two would be quite a blow. Perhaps enough of an impact to re-consider the value of using digital radio at all! Hear, we mainly listen to BBC 6 and Radio 4. We can get 4 on LW as it is. Therefore we consider our investment in a digital radio, now wasted.

    The following questions arise.

    1: Why hasn’t BBC Radio 3, a minority station in its self, and which seems to have been hiding away quietly in a corner since before WW2 as the ‘Third Programme’, not had the axe fall on it? Let’s face it, does anybody actually know of anyone who actually listens to Radio 3!

    2: Isn’t closing the BBC Asian Network, sending out the wrong signals to minority communities at a time when the country needs to reach out and drawn in to the country as a whole, these communities?

    3: Why must Six Music, a quality alternative and minorities taste music station, need to close when Radio One fails to appeal to a wider audience and will continue to pump out its wall to wall bland fare? Shouldn’t Radio1 be a music station for all which includes alternative and popular contemporary music interests!

    4: Why does Radio 4 long wave get away with using valuable air time for wall to wall cricket when, there is already a sport orientated channel in 5 live?

    5: Why does the BBC need more money for children’s programming when Digital TV is already awash with Kids output? Kids won’t sit and listen to radio anyhow, have you tried it!?

    6: Why does the BBC need more money for news content when we have Five Live and BBC News 24?

    BBC News 24 already churns out the same bland programming every 30 minutes with incessant looping of short supporting footage per item, which incidentally, is totally boring and mind numbing. If we wanted that much news, repeated, we could go to the internet, which has much more information and footage anyhow! CNN and countless others are already doing this already.

    7: The BBC website is essential for citizens’ world wide. It’s a source of balanced news and information and a word class source and site. Why would anyone want to devalue such an amazing ambassador for our culture and country? Total vandalism!

    8: Is it not a seriously bad mistake to withdraw 2 channels from a digital network which will impact on the willingness of the young and minority cultures to take up this format?

    The BBC should look more closely at its actions and long term affects. It could, if it wanted to, save a fortune if it reorganised older resources in a better way.

    For example, make BBC News 24 a better channel with politics, current affairs, social and educational documentaries or investigational specials added. A sort of News/Discovery channel, Evolve BBC Radio 5 live into a radio version of ‘24’ but with sport and general interest news items expanded.

    Radio 4 (General Interest) should stop many of its repeats and move drama to Radio 3 and News to 5, and if we must loose the Asian Network use the freed up time to cover ethnic, special interests and light documentaries. We could all learn a thing or to about each other along the way!

    Radio 3 (Minority Tastes and Drama) should cover more Drama (moved from Radio 4) and include Classical, Jazz and yes…maybe the Cricket specials!

    Radio 2 (The Light Entertainment Station) becomes what it used to be, the ‘Light Programme’ with good music, comedy and quality chat along the lines of The One Show..

    Radio 1 (The Music Station) becomes a much wider music base with all kinds of music, not just POP but Blues, Rock, Reggae, Country, Soul etc..like Six is now.

    The BBC world service could re-broadcast the best of all of the above and special world interest items, which would support and work with the BBC world wide website.

    BBC Long Wave should remain as it is, especially for those who have reception problems, but NO cricket take-overs!


  • Comment number 3.

    In reply to comments at #2:

    The music that is on 6 music can be aired on either R1 or R2, both of which aired the genre (new music) before the creation of 6 music, the same can not be said for R3 - apart from Jazz moving back to R2 - there is no natural home for the classics or indeed the 'world music' content they air should R3 be closed or more (non) music genres be added.

    Six music and the BBC Asian Network are radio stations for refugees, in the musical sense, surely it's far better to bring their content (back) in to the main stream rather than hiding it away on a digital only platform?

    I would hope that, should 6 music be closed, it will mean the end of both R1 and R2 playing the same popular musical 'Tat' that is found on commercial radio in the UK. As long as the output of 6 music is properly merged with both R1 and R2 I do not see why this is such a bad idea, on the other hand if the BBC's intention is to kill off any involvement with the content found on both 6 music and the Asian Network then yes, this is a bad move. I'm all for the BBC providing what isn't available elsewhere, I just don't believe in hiding it away, 6 music content needs to be and should be no a platform that is as widely available as possible, I see either or both R1 and R2 as those platforms.

    "4: Why does Radio 4 long wave get away with using valuable air time for wall to wall cricket when, there is already a sport orientated channel in 5 live?"

    Why not, would the listeners of R5 really want ball-by-ball commentary of a test match, five days, 9am to 6pm, with only an hour or so in that period for any other content - using R4LW for Cricket is probably one of the most inspired things the BBC has ever done were sport on radio is concerned!...

    "5: Why does the BBC need more money for children’s programming when Digital TV is already awash with Kids output? Kids won’t sit and listen to radio anyhow, have you tried it!?"

    I suppose that comes down to basically how parents bring their kids up, plenty of kids listen to non popular music radio but they tend to be the group that the intellectually abandoned "MTV generation" of kids tend to pick on for being to 'smart', not with the 'in crowd' etc...

    "Radio 4 (General Interest) should stop many of its repeats and move drama to Radio 3 and News to 5,"

    Get a clue! Many people can not receive R5 clearly, it was one of the reasons why R4 moved away from at least one of those two frequencies back in the 1970s, news belongs on R4, it's the home of radio news, R5 was an artificially created station, for the sole intention of useing a couple of national frequencies that don't really support music - being mono only.

  • Comment number 4.

    First of all, although not a 6Music listener myself, I feel for its several hundred thousand fans, many of them finding an articulate passion in their stunned incredulity. (I am a fan of passionate factions. I hope they will be victorious and reprieve their 9 million.)

    Now then, that Mr Mark Thompson fella on 'the website'. I paraphrase (from your WATO clip): incredible takeup of our website; all we're doing is 'a bit of gardening'; focus more clearly on the key editorial priorities; making adjustments as we go; putting money into quality content.

    Yep. Can't disagree with any of that. Tick my box.

    So, Mr Damazer, what of the key editorial priorities in connection with Radio 4, its cupboard of delights being labelled intelligent speech? 'The best journalism', 'inspiring knowledge, music and culture' and 'ambitious UK drama and comedy' all get big ticks in their boxes, noting the overlap with Radios 3 and 7 in some of those components. Realistically, Radio 4 cannot tick the boxes for 'outstanding children's content' and 'events that bring communities and the nation together'. Still, three out of five is a strong box-tick count. Given the proposition that the overall costs of the BBC website will be approximately the same as it was in early 2009, it seems to me that Radio 4 should be getting a bit more 'website' compared to those stations and channels that do not have as high a box-tick count. Or at least, that the gardening will not encroach on your patch.

    Question: is the gardening to be done on a channel/station basis, or on a pan-BBC function basis, e.g. 'blogs'. (From the number of online surveys popping up on my screen, I detect a bomb may be about to land on some blog areas.)


  • Comment number 5.

    I think that you need to improve the quality of your blogs, Steve.


  • Comment number 6.

    The BBC is one of the world's great institutions. But with regard to funding, via a guaranteed licence fee income, it rests on its laurels. If the BBC had to pay its way it would engage in more assertive marketing. To this end there should be a BBC display in every bookshop and record store in the land. The same should apply abroad where possible. The BBC's websites and other shopping websites should sell BBC products.
    Furthermore, beyond the UK the world wants to learn English. All productions intended for foreign consumption should carry dialogue in both English and the language of the country where distributed. (Yes, the written word in English is a necessary add-on to the English sound track to help foreigners with their learning.) Moreover, on the internet the BBC iPlayer programmes should be offered in a selection of the world's most spoken languages. With the combination of marketing income and the licence fee the latter would not have to be increased - indeed it could be reduced. In these ways the BBC should go from strength to strength and be able to outstrip the compeition.

  • Comment number 7.

    #6. At 10:11pm on 16 Mar 2010, johnmus3 wrote:

    "The BBC is one of the world's great institutions. But with regard to funding, via a guaranteed licence fee income, it rests on its laurels. If the BBC had to pay its way it would engage in more assertive marketing. ..//.."

    It's precisely because the BBC doesn't have to compete in the market that it can and is the great institution it is, otherwise it would just be another ITV, Fox, Discovery, even CNN type media empire - all competing for the same slice of income - the BBC can (should be) offer what the public needs, not just what the public wants, an important difference.

    Also, one has to understand the different funding methods of the BBC's domestic service, that of the BBC's World Service and the role in which the commercial arm of the BBC - BBC Worldwide - play in both, much of your comments (cut for brevity) about help for foreigners with their English language learning could well happen, assuming that there is actually a market for such products.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.