Archives for July 2012

The BBC's International Radio Streams During the Olympics

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Mark Friend Mark Friend 15:41, Friday, 27 July 2012

UPDATE (29 July): After discussion, the IOC and the BBC have agreed that there is no need to block our international streams of Radio 4 programmes with a wide news agenda. Radio 5 Live (apart from the news programme Up All Night) and 5 Live Olympics Extra will remain available only in the UK. The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2 will also now be available internationally. Radio 5 Live Sports Extra coverage of non Olympic Sports will be available as normal.

Original post (27 July): One of the benefits of the BBC’s online radio streams is that listeners all over the world can enjoy just about all our programmes live and on demand.

Unfortunately, there are some types of content where we are restricted from distributing overseas, usually because of sports rights. The impact of this will be very noticeable throughout the Olympic Games because the BBC has the rights to broadcast from Olympic venues only to the UK.

This is what happened on the Today Programme this morning. When parts of BBC radio programmes are broadcast from an Olympic site, the live and on demand stream will be blocked to international audiences for the duration of that segment. International audiences will hear a message informing them of the rights restrictions in place.

Some entire BBC radio stations will only be available in the UK for the duration of the Games. For example, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and BBC Radio 5 live olympics extra all have substantial coverage from the Olympic sites and will be blocked to international audiences.

When whole, or large parts of, programmes are broadcast from an Olympic site, the entire programme will be blocked to international audiences. The frequency of this may vary. For example:

  • Radio 2's Chris Evans' Breakfast Show is broadcasting from the Olympic Park and will be blocked to international audiences for the duration of the Games.
  • Radio 4’s Today Programme was broadcast from the Olympic Park on Friday 27 July and therefore blocked to international audiences on that day.

In some cases, when only parts of programmes are broadcast from an Olympic site, it may be possible to block the Olympics segment and make the rest of the programme available internationally. This will apply to many editions of Radio 4’s Today Programme.

Mark Friend is Controller Multi-platforms & Interactive BBC Audio and Music.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Inside The Ethics Committee: Preventing Pregnancy in Homeless Women

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Beth_Eastwood 09:58, Friday, 27 July 2012

Editor's note: Inside The Ethics Committee this week covers the subject of Preventing Pregnancy in Homeless Women. You can listen again to the programme or download the series for free. PM

Joan Bakewell


Homeless women who are addicted to drugs often turn to sex work for money. Some become pregnant, often many times, with tragic consequences - their children often end up in care. What lengths should a medical team go to to encourage these women to use contraception?

The number of people sleeping rough on Britain’s streets is rising, and the need for supported housing continues. But providing a roof over someone's head is just the start. A nurse specialist, working in day centres and hostels, provides health services for the homeless. It’s an ideal opportunity to try to engage with clients, who usually fall under the radar of the general practitioner. Physical health problems associated with living outside are common, and many suffer from mental health problems and drug addiction.

Sex work provides a means for women to escape the streets at night, and fund a drug habit. But the chaotic nature of these women’s lives means contraception use is sporadic and pregnancies occur. Many of the women who have suffered the loss of several children to the care system still don’t have long term contraception in place.

  • What lengths should the medical team go to to encourage these women to avoid unwanted pregnancies?
  • Should they offer them money?
  • Would this be ethical?
  • Do we have the right to interfere in this way when people lead chaotic lives?

Joan Bakewell is joined on the panel by Ann Skinner, Founding Director of Resolving Chaos and Chair of Homeless Link, Deborah Bowman, Professor of Ethics and Medical Law at St George’s University of London, Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Bioethics at Queen Mary College, London and Dr Tamsin Broom, Sexual Health Consultant at Sandyford , Glasgow.

Beth Eastwood is producer of Inside The Ethics Comittee

The Now Show 2012 - Live!

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Frankie Ward 16:10, Thursday, 26 July 2012

You may be aware that a small event is launching on Friday night. It's taken years of planning, millions of pounds and handfuls of hair (torn out of the heads of distressed committees and politcians) and now it's here. London 2012, the jewel in the crown of, well, the year 2012.

From Monday July 30 at 11pm, BBC Radio Comedy will be bringing you The Now Show 2012 - Live!, a spectacular attempt to cover the Olympics in the only way hosts Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt know how; with a cheeky satirical slant and special guests including Andy Parsons, Henning Wehn and Alex Horne and The Horne Section. The show will continue on alternate weeknights across the two weeks of the Olympics, culminating in the broadcasting equivalent of the 100 metres final on August 10... probably.

While Hugh, Steve and their guests perilously perform live to the nation via BBC Radio 4 on air and online, we'll be supporting their antics on the BBC Radio 4 Twitter account. If you'd like to join in with proceedings, all you need to do is Tweet your thoughts, ending in the #bbcnowshow hashtag.

To celebrate this much-anticipated event (the show, not the Olympics!), we've created an exclusive video just for you, which you can find by following this link. Many thanks to the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for their moving rendition of the Chariots of Fire theme tune.

Inside The Ethics Committee: Too Old to Donate?

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Greg Smith 16:12, Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Editor's note: Joan Bakewell presents Inside The Ethics Committee and writes here about the second programme in the current series - GS.

Kidney donation

Joan Bakewell writes:

This is a story close to my heart...and other organs.

I've carried a donor card for years now, in readiness for that fatal car accident when my body parts can be whisked away to make other lives better.

Happily for me that has not happened. Now I learn that some individuals are deciding to make a gift of a kidney while they are still alive... and to a complete stranger.

In recent years the need for kidneys has increased but the usual sources have been drying up.

For one thing there are fewer of those dangerous road accidents. There has been medical progress too.

So it's quite common these days for people to donate a living kidney to one of their own family or someone close to them.

But over a hundred people have now given for entirely altruistic reasons to someone they know nothing about. What selfless generosity!

That's how I came to know about Pamela: she's a feisty Scot who had nursed her dying husband and knew the agonies he went through as his kidneys failed.

After his death she decided to offer one of her own kidneys to anyone who was in need. She made an appointment with a kidney specialist. And that's when her problems started. Pamela is 82 years old.

Read the rest of this entry

In the Beginning was Sound

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Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams 14:35, Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Daniel Barenboim

I was privileged to edit the 2006 Reith Lectures with Daniel Barenboim; working with him on that series altered forever the way I listen to music.

Last night, inspired again by the Beethoven symphonies being performed at the Proms by his pioneering West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, I re-listened to the first lecture and the electric exchanges that took place in the discussion that followed.

On Friday, the Ninth Symphony will be broadcast just before the Olympic Games in a brilliant Proms season from Roger Wright, my colleague and Controller of Radio 3 and Director of the Proms.

So, after the concert and the opening ceremony, in a schedule change late night on Radio 4, I invite you to listen once again to Daniel Barenboim's first 2006 Reith Lecture, In the Beginning was Sound.

His theme is music and society. Music, he argues, is a way to make sense of the world: our politics, our history, our future and our very essence.

He seeks to draw, through the whole series, some connection, as he puts it "between the inexpressible content of music and the inexpressible content of life".

Don't miss it.

Gwyneth Williams is the Controller of Radio 4. Listen to In the Beginning was Sound on Friday 27 July at 23:00.

Opening Lines

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Gemma Jenkins 16:35, Friday, 20 July 2012


Opening Lines, the series which gives first-time and emerging short story writers their radio debut, returns to BBC Radio 4 on Friday 20th July.

The stories are sourced directly from the unsolicited submissions our team receives each year and we were thrilled by the response to this year's call to action, with more than 700 stories landing on our desk over the course of a single month. We almost chalked up all seven continents - definitely our challenge for next year - including stories from Japan, Barbados and South Africa.

The script meeting where we decide which three stories we are going to broadcast is always pretty exciting. The two of us read each other's choices and then fight it out - well, we've never actually come to blows - we tend to shout our preferences in the form of giant yellow post-its with YES! scrawled across them and then stuck firmly to the front pages of our favourites.

So, over the next three weeks, you'll be able to hear how various pets - two dogs and a cat to be precise - compete to steal the show from dramatic landscapes which have the power to both thrill and threaten in equal measure.

Gerri Brightwell's The Wild transports us to Alaska and the depths of winter. There's a slow build of tension as a husband is sent out into the snow to retrieve the family cat. In studio, we had lots of fun teasing out the story's almost thriller-like energy and there's a nifty twist at the end which signals trouble ahead for this young couple...

In Jay Barnett's Cynthia the narrator makes a rather unconventional attempt to escape his life of screwing together furniture for a living. Working with Jay to choose the music was fun and we ended up with a soundtrack featuring The XX, Gary Newman and Steely Dan. We'll leave it to you to work out which choices were the author's and which came from us.

The climber in Sophie Hampton's The Cairn, has an Indiana Jones style quality about him as he defies danger and challenges greedy interlopers with an imaginary gun! During the recording, we concentrated on finding a delicate balance between capturing the climber's adventurous spirit and tapping into the deep vein of sadness that runs through the story.

2012 is shaping up to be a landmark year for the series as we are launching a new venture - the Opening Lines webpage where you'll be able to find transcripts of the five strongest stories we received this year. We are very proud of our new permanent home where we'll continue to draw attention to some of the best new short story writing out there.

We hope you enjoy the series and take time to visit the programme pages for more Opening Lines content.

Gemma Jenkins is the producer of BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines programme.

In Business: A Cyclist's View of the Euro

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Peter Day Peter Day 14:14, Thursday, 19 July 2012

Cyclists in Europe

Years ago, in a previous millennium, I made a programme called The Cyclist's Guide to the Euro.

It was curious... so curious that I still cannot understand how we managed to convince Radio 4 to commission it.

The idea was a simple one: take a bicyclists' look at the great Euro project. Cycling fanatics such as the Independent's travel whiz Simon Calder helped to bring credibility to the cycling bits.

The clever investment guru David Roche took us to Maastricht, a great centre of European convergence.

He is also a cycling fanatic, and he brought a historical perspective to the long evolution of Europe, dating back to the Holy Roman Empire and the invention of the kingdom of Belgium in the early 1830s.

The then MEP Christopher Huhne showed us round the peripatetic European Parliament during one of its sojourns in Strasburg. I do not think he was a cyclist, but he tried to justify the great European project over a jolly nice lunch in the Parliament's canteen.

Memorably, a veteran European diplomatist gave us the glue that eventually held the programme together.

"It's just like bicycling," he said. "The European project has to keep pedalling, otherwise it would fall over."

In other words, the people at the heart Europe have to keep thinking up clever wheezes to edge the project on, lest it lose all momentum.

The programme went out right at the end of 1991, when the Euro was getting up steam.

As an everyday cyclist, pedalling to keep upright, my questions were sceptical - and sceptical about pedalling ever faster to keep the ball rolling.

The Euro seemed to be a politicians' construct, one of those plots that once named and unveiled is deemed to have happened.

Well, it now seems that what happened was the easy bit. In strictly economic terms, a single currency did not make much sense unless lots of other things accompanied it.

As we now know, the politicians thought they had created a more united Europe by inaugurating Euroland without many of the features that functional currency zones need: a strong central bank, for example, some kind of unifying tax and public spending framework, and perhaps labour mobility of the kind common in the USA.

The top Canadian economist called The Father of the Euro, Professor Robert Mundell of Columbia University, talked about these missing links for the new currency in an In Business stuffed with Nobel Prize winners last autumn.

Thus it is that within 10 years of the creation of the Euro, there's a grand and elongated crisis which was almost inevitable.

What's the solution to the Euro mess?

Stay the course, say the enthusiasts, a process also known by the non-economic term "kicking the can down the road".

In the first of the new series of In Business, I met a clutch of Euroland business leaders big and small

This crisis will pass; respect the Europe project... keep on pedalling.

  • Do you think the eurozone can continue in its current form?
  • While governments and businesses might want tighter eurozone integration - do they people?
  • If you don't think the euro has a future, what will replace it?

Listen to In Business: Euro Peril on Thursday 19, July at 20:30

Inside The Ethics Committee with Joan Bakewell

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Beth_Eastwood 07:00, Thursday, 19 July 2012

Editor's note: Inside The Ethics Committee returns this week with the subject of Restraining Patients In Intensive Care. You can listen again to the programme or download the series for free. PM

Joan Bakewell


Hospital is where we go to get well and we expect to give informed consent for our treatment. But what happens when a patient actively resists the treatment that will save them?

In BBC Radio 4’s Inside the Ethics Committee, Joan Bakewell is joined by a panel of experts who wrestle with this ethically challenging question.

They look at the case of 29 year old Monty. Earlier this year he started having trouble breathing, became more withdrawn and was eventually rushed to hospital and transferred straight to intensive care.

Monty is diagnosed with double pneumonia and, unable to breathe sufficiently on his own, he is placed on a ventilator and sedated so he can tolerate a breathing tube in his throat. The ventilator delivers high levels of oxygen into his lungs and does his breathing for him. After several days on antibiotics, his lungs start to recover.

Staying on a ventilator longer than Monty needs is risky, so the team are keen to get him off the ventilator and breathing for himself, as soon as possible. To do this, they stop the sedation, and over several hours Monty gradually wakes up. The plan is to remove Monty’s breathing tube and then place a mask over his face to support his breathing until he is strong enough to breathe unaided.

But things don’t go according to plan. Monty is autistic, and as soon as the mask is placed over his face, he bats it off. The nurses put it back on, but he gets up from the bed forcing the mask away. The nurses persist, but Monty struggles and lashes out at them. Exhausted and breathless, he starts turning blue. Fearing for Monty's life, the team re-sedate him and put him back on the ventilator. Desperate for a solution, the team try the mask again, but again he resists while the nurses and carers try desperately to stop him.

As his life hangs in the balance,

  • What lengths can the medical team go to to get Monty to accept the life-saving treatment he is struggling against?
  • Is it ethical to tie Monty to the bed?
  • Does Monty have the right to refuse?

Joan Bakewell is joined on the panel by Dr Gilbert Park, Consultant in Intensive Care at North Middlesex University Hospital, Deborah Bowman, Professor of Ethics and Law at St George’s Hospital in London, Catherine Plowright, a Nurse Consultant at Medway Hospital and a Professional Advisor at the British Association of Critical Care Nurses and Professor Tony Holland, Chair in Learning Disabilities in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.

Beth Eastwood is producer of Inside The Ethics Comittee

When I'm 65 on You and Yours

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Ben Toone Ben Toone 15:18, Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Editor's note: As part of the new BBC season, When I'm 65, Radio 4's You and Yours has been focussing on covering some of the issues around ageing in the UK today. Here, Ben Toone from the show picks out some highlights. PM

BBC Ageing Season: When I'm 65


The season certainly opened my eyes to the issues affecting older people, both good and bad.

We reported on all sorts of aspects of ageing, from exercise to work, education and ideas and advertising and care. We looked at the ideas to make ageing more comfortable as well as the ways to keep active in older age and most importantly the rewards of keeping a positive approach.

The BBC's World Affairs Correspondent John Simpson talked about his fears for the future whilst Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph shared her experience of living with a pensioner - Pat- who cares full time for her bed-ridden husband.

Advertising guru Sir John Hegarty talked about how ageing is portrayed in advertising and the media and The Apprentice's Nick Hewer talked about on working after the retirement age. On Call You and Yours, callers Hilary and Ray described the difficulties of finding work later in life and the difficultly of working after reaching 80.

You can explore other aspects of the series via our website - including finding out how Manchester is aiming to become the UK's first and Age Friendly City, exploring a Dutch dementia village and revisiting the University of the Third Age, an idea kicked off by a You and Yours interview 30 years ago.

Ben Toone is a member of the You and Yours production team.

In Our Time: Hadrian's Wall

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 16:49, Thursday, 12 July 2012

Editor's note: In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed Hadrian's Wall. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep - AI

Hadrian's Wall



It's all very strange. It must be like living at the time of Caxton - if you are at all aware of Caxton - I wonder how many won't be. But when this programme started about fourteen years ago, I imagined people in ones and twos of the autodidactic tendency and the intelligentsia variety listening rather guiltily to the radio instead of doing something more important - comparison with novels at one time being thought a frivolous waste of time and under no circumstances read in the morning - and not letting the neighbours know.

Last week, after our programme on Scepticism and an audience far bigger than any arts programme on television (including, alas, my own), we had emails from Singapore, Brazil, Vancouver, India, Morocco, Croatia, Sweden, Italy... What is the world coming to? Well, some of the world is coming to In Our Time and we're very grateful.

Hadrian's Wall this morning was an immense strain. I gave myself a medal at the end of it. How did I manage to say so little? I first went on to Hadrian's Wall with my first serious girlfriend when I was seventeen and we walked along most of it, with memorable stops at the youth hostel at Twice Brewed. Or was that Once Brewed? Which is the pub and which is the youth hostel? Because it was near where we were in the north of England - Carlisle is only a few miles away and it would eventually be uncovered as one of the greatest Roman cities in Britain - there was a feeling of ownership. As there was for the whole Celtic religious movement, with Iona so close and islands in the Lakes which had their own hermits who yearned to die on the same day as St Cuthbert (one of them, St Herbert, did, in fact, or so says Bede and who would question Bede?)

But the wall is there in its utter magnificence, and few ruins anywhere in the world can evoke such a powerful feeling of what they were there for once - that is to say, when you're up around Halsteads, or along at Chesters, or even at Birdoswald, you can feel (or if you have any imagination at all you can feel) that you are a soldier in the Roman military, peering eagle-eyed to the north to see if those Picts are gathering their forces to come and assail you. You can feel the frontier mentality of that world empire. Because of the exposed nature of the wall, the weather gives you a feeling of the time as much as the stones and the milecastles do.

I took my son there a couple of years ago and we walked some of it. It was in some way a monumental folly by Hadrian which has turned out to be a monument for all time. Up, then, with follies and off we folly-well go, lonely as clouds - that is the production team and myself - until September.

Have a good summer. Remember what the man said: "There is no such thing as bad weather; only inadequate clothing".

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

Niall Ferguson: Reith Lecture pt.4 - Civil and Uncivil Societies

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Richard Fenton-Smith 08:36, Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Editor's note: In the Reith Lecture this week, Niall Ferguson talked about Civil and Uncivil Societies . The programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep - PMcD

Niall Ferguson


""Over the past 50 years governments have encroached too far on the realm of civil society," says Niall Ferguson in his fourth and final Reith Lecture, titled Civil and Uncivil Societies .

Society, he says, would benefit from more private initiative and less dependence on the state. Basically, we can do better by doing it for ourselves.

Education, in particular, is one field Prof Ferguson believes could benefit from a more hands-off approach from the state.

"If there is one educational policy I should like to see adopted in the UK, it would be a policy that aimed to increase significantly the number of private schools," he declares.

It doesn't escape Prof Ferguson that this is the kind of statement which the Left reflexively denounce as elitist - especially, he says, privately educated liberals. There are conservatives, too, who see private schools as the cause of inequality, not a solution.

Well, says Niall Ferguson, they are utterly wrong.

For about a hundred years, he says, there's no doubt the expansion of state education was a good thing, because there was insufficient provision - but we need to recognise the limits of public monopolies like this.

The current state education system, says Ferguson, is a typical monopoly. Its quality has declined over the years because of a lack of competition and the creeping power of vested producer interests - in this case, the government and teaching unions.

And that's where the state education system could benefit by emulating the private school sector - namely with increased independence and competition.

The growth of the Academy system in England and Wales - introduced by the previous Labour government and expanded with zeal by the current coalition - as well as the advent of Free Schools, says Ferguson, are a step in the right direction. These are schools autonomous from the state, in the hands of teachers and parents who understand the needs of their students better than a Whitehall bureaucrat.

Critics argue this is fine if you're in a middle-class neighbourhood, where the local parents have the time and social capital to make a Free School work, but what about those in poorer neighbourhoods?

What these critics seem to forget, says Prof Ferguson, is that children from deprived areas have already been failed. State education standards have suffered greatly as a result of rampant grade inflation to exaggerate performance and conceal decline.

"Are we really helping the poor by trapping them in rubbish schools?" Ferguson asks.

He points to the success of schools such as Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, one of London's most deprived boroughs. Previously condemned as a failing school, this year, ten Mossbourne students were offered places at Cambridge University.

Prof Ferguson makes it clear that he is not arguing for private schools over state schools, but a greater mix which will force all schools to raise their game.

"The biggest threat," he says "is complacency... thinking we're fine... that our schools are great."

If the education revolution of the 20th Century was that basic education became available for most people in democracies - the education revolution of the 21st Century, says Ferguson, should be that good education will become available for an increasing proportion of children.

Listen to all Niall Ferguson's Reith Lectures

Download Niall Ferguson's 2012 Reith Lectures

Download The Reith Lectures Archive 1976 - 2011

Download The Reith Lectures Archive 1948 - 1975


Book at Beachtime with Freya North

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Freya North 10:00, Monday, 9 July 2012

Editor's note: Freya North's book Rumours is featured in Radio 4 Extra's Book at Beachtime starting on Monday 9 July at 2.30pm on BBC Radio 4 Extra. AI.

Freya North


Research is a true perk of my job and, as Rumours is set around the potential sale of a stately home, I had the incredible opportunity to snoop around some magnificent country estates, meeting some very eccentric folk in the process. For me, it's not just the subjects, but the settings too which are essential in bringing my books to life. In my stories, location is so much more than just a backdrop to the action, it swiftly becomes a leading character within each novel and Rumours takes at its heart Hertfordshire - the beautiful county where I now live.

When I crank up my laptop each morning, I'm always a little surprised to find my characters exactly where I left them - there's a part of me that anticipates they have gone gallivanting off behind my back. I became very close to the cast of Rumours - especially Lady Lydia, sensing that the cantankerous old battleaxe had a softer side which I looked forward to her revealing. I had a dreamy time following in the footsteps of Stella and Xander. She's the feisty newcomer in charge of selling Longbridge Hall. He's the village's eligible bachelor whose secrets are bound up with the great house. Xander will do anything to stand in Stella's way - anything, that is, but fall in love and I found their initial stroppiness towards one another just as beguiling as when they allowed their true feelings to surface.

As with all my novels, Rumours is unashamedly romantic with a healthy dose of colourful raunch (as opposed to sex in shades of grey...!) and that's what perhaps I enjoy most of all in my writing - characters I'd like to meet, like to be, like to fall in love with.

It's a career highlight for me that Rumours has been chosen as Book at Beachtime. When I write, I feel that I'm little more than my characters' PA, taking dictation from them to tell their tale. Their voices are so distinct to me - and I'll be fascinated to 'hear' them. In my mind's eye, I imagine the characters gathering around Lady Lydia's wireless, hooting with laughter as their tale is retold on national radio.

Freya North is the author of Rumours.

Feedback: The Archers

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 17:00, Friday, 6 July 2012

Roger Bolton

"Women wept in the streets, house blinds were drawn as a mark of respect, and families picked wild flowers, or sent money to the BBC for wreaths, when Grace Archer died".

That was the late Norman Painting, aka Phil Archer, describing the extraordinary hold which the Ambridge soap had already established on its listeners a mere 5 years after it began in 1950, as a midlands regional programme.

Grace had been married to Phil for only 5 months when she was burned to death trying to rescue a horse from a barn.

It was, of course, pure coincidence that ITV came on the air for the first time the same evening.

Since then, children have been born illegitimate, been kidnapped, and come out as gay. There have been car and plane crashes, and Nigel Pargetter has fallen to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley, with one of the longest blood curdling cries ever heard on radio.

Credibility has been a little strained, but not damagingly so. Until now?

There are some Feedback listeners who think the Archers is in danger of becoming a dark and dangerous place threatened by sensational story lines.

They look back to what they believe were gentler times.

In the beginning, Norman Painting wrote, Ambridge was a place where "the sun shone brighter", and "the grass was greener".

Sixty years later is that what we want? Or has our world become darker?

Judged by our considerable mailbag on the subject, what Archers listeners most want is for the stories to be credible and for the inhabitants of Ambridge to act in character.

They query two of the main contemporary storylines.

Would sensible Amy really have fallen for such an obvious rotter and gone to pieces?

And would David Archer, threatened by thugs who want to stop him testifying in court, deserted by his wife in his hour of need, really be so alone?

Would Borsetshire"s finest not be able to offer some help?

Would Jill, that highly moral and principled wife of a former JP, really advise David not to testify?

In the last Feedback of the present series we put listeners" concerns to the acting Editor of the Archers, John Yorke, and to long time Archers producer and scriptwriter Keri Davies.

Here is an edited version of our conversation

By the way Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn is now back in harness. I wonder what she has been dreaming up in her absence?

We will be absent until the last week of August. I do hope absence makes your heart grow fonder.

Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, get in touch with the programme, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Read all of Roger's Feedback blog posts.

In Our Time: Scepticism

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Melvyn Bragg Melvyn Bragg 14:49, Friday, 6 July 2012

Editor's note: In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed Scepticism. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep - AI

Michel de Montaigne



I am sitting in St James's Park, overlooking the pond, after lunch with a pal. Before that there was a stroll in Green Park - in the sun for a change - with the usual green and white-striped deckchairs full and the attendants moseying from one clump of people to another with nobody noticeably retreating, past the new war memorial for Bomber Command, which was absolutely crowded with people looking eagerly and intently at the content of the monument itself and at the information inside the monument.

And I've just received a message from Tom Morris, the producer of In Our Time as you all know, who tells me that the Higgs Boson programme which we did in 2004, "long before anybody else", is currently the second most listened-to programme on the In Our Time website, which is going some. This was undoubtedly the big news of the day and only one of the newspapers caught on to that; in other papers we had the usual - how can I put this politely - fiddling bankers, flapping politicians, futile policy makers, the usual depressing flannel of a country which really needs to get hold of its past and pull itself up to the future.

But enough of that. Let us be cheerful. What about? Well, the programme on Scepticism made me realise that I had become a sceptic. I was born naïve and grew up naïve and was ridiculously naïve, even through Oxford and into the BBC. Quite comic this, looking back. I did things like believed that people meant what they said and said what I thought was the truth to people who thought that I must be joking. Possibly because I had a problem with communication. But scepticism has now lowered itself on me like a mountain mist and I welcome it.

The world is not as it seems, alas. How could I have thought otherwise? But I was young and foolish and it is not only the prerogative but perhaps the duty of the young and foolish to think otherwise. Scepticism as a stratum of philosophy in the Western tradition is fascinating, and I thought that the brilliant array of professors this morning examined it with such skill and speed and care that no-one could be in any doubt of its range, its relevance and its - I think I've run out of alliteration - significance to everybody who thinks about thinking.

Now off to the Lords and then to St Mary's Church in Barnes. I'll be talking to the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, about art and religion. He has written several books on this subject and is immensely articulate and convincing. He is a hero of Richard Dawkins, who unfortunately in his wild attacks on religion doesn't quote him, preferring to refer to American religious right-wing jocks, which is a shame because Dawkins is such an intelligent man.

I think that's about it. I'm a bit tired already and it's mid-afternoon, despite looking over the calm waters of St James's and being passed by the extraordinary mix which is the new country of London. Or perhaps it's the old country of London. Perhaps London always was a separate state. Always, in the sense of post-Tudor. Perhaps even before then. Chaucer speaks of it in terms which make it seem like a separate entity.

Anyway, never mind all that. St James's is still managing to survive, despite being totally invaded by Olympic preparations which even exceed the Jubilee preparations - tents, scaffolding, goodness knows what - in order that the marathon can finish splendidly down the Mall. It's a great thing to be happening to the city, but now and then I think it will be very nice to wander round in the city as a city and not the city as a spectacle provider. Is that curmudgeonly? If so, I apologise.

Don't quite know how to end this, so I'll just say cheerio. It's sunny here, which is a change. I was up North last week and will be going North again tomorrow where it is slashing down, pouring down, hailstoning down. The parnee is everywhere.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

PS: I'm still sitting on a bench in St James's Park. A free bench in a free park in a free country. What a treat. At my feet are six of the fattest pigeons imaginable, pecking away at the ground. There must be something there, but I can't see it.

Comedy Greats: Overseas

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KerryReece 11:52, Friday, 6 July 2012

Editor's Note - Comedy Greats: Overseas is broadcast on Radio 4 Extra on Saturday 7th July at 9.00am. Producer Kerry Reece has written about working on the programme - CM

Tony Hancock

Earlier this year, I completed an attachment as a Producer for Radio 4 Extra - away from my usual home of Radio 2. And this Saturday you can hear the culmination of my time with the UK's most listened to digital only radio station.

Comedy Greats Overseas is a bonus edition added to the latest run of Barry Cryer's review of radio comedy decade by decade.

Whist researching, scripting and creating this 3 hour special, I was surprised to realise that I'd fallen deeply in love. No, not with Barry - though he's adorable to work with - but in love with the work of a small and often overlooked department - the BBC Transcription Service.

It was set up in the 1930s, a direct result of the creation of 'the Empire Service' (the forerunner to the World Service). Its job was to package up and sell domestic BBC radio shows abroad. In most cases, just a few minor edits were needed before recordings were sent overseas on 12 inch 78rpm discs. Topical or domestic references hit the cutting room floor.

But, when it came to the BBC's hit radio comedies, the producers had their work cut out for them, as, in some cases, simply editing out topical or overtly British references would ruin the payoff to a finely scripted gag. So, the Transcription Service hit upon a novel solution. Working in conjunction with each show's producers, writers and performers, they arranged to record NEW versions of the problematic shows. This entailed specially written scripts replacing tricky references with some that were more universal.

This Saturday you can hear examples of both approaches taken by the BBC Transcription Service. There are shows which simply had their topical or British references removed: like a classic 1965 episode of The Clitheroe Kid - where you'll hear how the edited out not only a reference to a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to 'Mrs Shufflewick' (a prominent drag act of the day!) but also several mentions of Huddersfield!

You'll discover how language caused problems too - like, in an episode of The Navy Lark from 1959 - where the Sub-lieutenant (played by the inimitable Leslie Phillips) remarks on his 'perky little titfer' - a phrase which even some native British speakers would struggle with! A titfer, being of course, Cockney rhyming slang for a hat.

But you'll also hear examples of shows that were completely re-recorded, like Men From The Ministry, the classic comedy about the never-ending bunglings of two inept civil servants. The original episode - 'Strictly For The Birds' - was recorded in November 1962, but was so crammed with British references that, 18 years later, after a surge in the show's popularity abroad (particularly in South Africa), it was completely rewritten and re-recorded by the Transcription Service along with 13 others.

It's the same story for 'The New Secretary' - a classic episode of Hancock's Half Hour which saw the very first appearance of Hattie Jacques's character Griselda Pugh. You'll discover how, and why, the Transcription Service tackled the tricky task of creating a version where Griselda was present from the very start. Incredibly, for years, the Transcription Service version was the only one known to exist. It was only when an original off-air recording was unearthed in 2002 that it was able to resume its rightful place in Hancockian history.

Comedy purists owe the Transcription Service a great debt. While the BBC failed to keep many of its early recordings, this little known set-up meticulously saved the versions they made, creating a vast archive of the BBC's finest comedy shows. Even today, many of the Service's reversions are still the only ones known to exist and many are still heard on Radio 4 Extra - as you can hear this Saturday in Comedy Greats Overseas.

Kerry Reece is an Assistant Producer at BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music, and spent nine months at Radio 4 Extra on a Producer attachment.

When I'm 65: BBC's Ageing Season

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Ben Toone Ben Toone 09:40, Thursday, 5 July 2012

BBC Ageing Season: When I'm 65


If you're over 65, is it how you imagined? If you're under 65, how much do you think about being old?

Day to day I don't, but since working on the You and Yours Ageing Season called 'When I'm 65' I have realised that I'm actually rather apprehensive about being elderly. And my worst fears? Perhaps the thought of sitting in a chair all day, with a knitted blanket over my knees, eating liquidised roast chicken dinner, and possibly not knowing my own name.

Of course this is not the reality for most pensioners. According to Guy Robertson, in his paper 'Positive Ageing - from the political to the personal' only a quarter of people over 85 have dementia, whilst in the Republic of Ireland 90% of the care budget is spent on only 4.4% of the people over 65.

I'm not trying to belittle the devastating effect illness can have on the quality of some people's lives but I have realised there are many reasons to be cheerful. And if you consider that scientists, health professionals and the like have spent so much time and energy finding ways to increase life expectancy, (1/3 of babies born in 2012 are expected to survive to celebrate their 100th birthday according to recent report by the Office of National Statistics)- it seems churlish, at best, to be frightened of actually living that dream.

Here on You and Yours, Radio 4's consumer programme, we regularly examine key issues confronting older people. Disability and care are part of our core remit and our recent series on Adult Social Care looked in detail at the government's new policy white paper and what it might contain to improve things.

So we were a natural partner to collaborate with BBC One for the 'When I'm 65' Ageing Season.

We'll be speaking to Nick Hewer from the Apprentice about The Town That Never Retired - an experiment where 15 retirees in their seventies are sent back to work and 68 year old Birds of a Feather Actress Lesley Joseph will talk about the challenges of being a full time carer, after living with two pensioners Pat and Malcolm for the programme When I get Older.

We'll also be talking about Silver entrepreneurs, older people in Advertising with John Hegarty and visit a pioneering dementia village in Holland.

Do get in touch to share your thoughts on the positive aspects of ageing or send us a picture showing why you're glad to be over 65.

Karen Dalziel is a Producer on You and Yours which is broadcast weekdays at 12.04.

Book at Beachtime with Marina Lewycka

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Marina Lewycka 15:38, Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Editor's note: Marina Lewycka's book Various Pets Alive and Dead featured in Radio 4 Extra's Book at Beachtime from 2 July on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Here she writes about her novel. You can also replay the live chat from 4 July when Marina answered questions about her writing. PMcD.

Marina Lewycka writes:

Various Pets Alive and Dead brings the laid-back values of the sixties into collision with today's go-getting values. Serge grew up in a commune, but now works as a quant in an investment bank, and he hasn't dared tell his parents Marcus and Doro about his new career - let alone bring the new love of his life home to meet them. They've retired to a semi in Doncaster, but still cling on to their ideals - and to some of the awful clothes that went with them. His prickly sister Clara is teaching in a rough school and trying to shed her past, and his adopted sister Oolie Anna, who has Downs Syndrome, is also making a bid for freedom. Yes, and various pets come to a sticky end.

The idea for the novel was born out of the banking crisis that was suddenly turning our prosperous world upside down. I started asking myself: what's happening? who's to blame? how come nobody saw it coming? Living in Yorkshire, I was aware of how the financial bubble in the City was ravaging the industrial north.

At the same time, I was hearing friends of my age saying they don't quite understand what their children are up to. We were the generation that went on demos, smoked spliffs, created great music, and invented sex (yeah, I know, each generation thinks that!) So how come our children have grown up into bankers, entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers? We love them, of course, but we don't understand them. They love us, but they think we're a bit quaint and past it. OK, maybe we are - but we have some great memories.

Way back in 1970, I went to live in a squat in a small terraced house in Bow with a group of friends. Having checked it was empty, late one night we broke in through the front window. Although squatting itself was not illegal, breaking and entering were. I can still remember the terrified beating of my heart as we stretched out on the bare floorboards in our sleeping bags that night. Around 5am we were woken by a shuddering roar of the first commuter train of the day. In the feeble light filtering through the grimy windows, we explored our new home. We soon realised why the Council had declared it unfit for habitation. There was no bathroom, and the only loo was in the back yard, with its door hanging off, and five metres away was the main Liverpool Street railway line with trains flashing past every few minutes. Occasionally one would stop.

The kitchen sink had only a cold tap - one of those pot 'butler' sinks which are now so trendy. That's where we washed ourselves, the children, the dishes, and the socks and undies that couldn't wait for the weekly launderette trip. Uggh!

We furnished our home with stuff from skips, painted in primary colours, and stuck up posters. Victory to the NLF. Sisterhood is blooming. Che Guevara. We shared childcare, meals, and sometimes lovers. (The young people in my novel are the same generation as the children who lived with us in the squat, who have turned out delightful, sane and successful.) At night, when everyone was asleep, I would get out a lined exercise book, and scribble away. One day, I thought, I must write a novel about all this.

But when I came to write it, I found the present-day world, the financial meltdown and the devastation of our proud welfare state, kept intruding into my book. And that's how Various Pets Alive and Dead came about.

Marina Lewycka is the author of Various Pets Alive and Dead.

Marina Lewycka will be live online here on Thursday 5 July at 3pm to answer any questions you have about her books. Send any questions you have in advance via the comments below.

Niall Ferguson: Reith Lecture pt.3 - The Landscape of the Law

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Richard Fenton-Smith 09:03, Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Editor's note: In the Reith Lecture this week, Niall Ferguson talked about The Landscape of the Law. The programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep - PMcD

niall ferguson


"Some score members of the... bar... are mistily engaged in one of ten thousand stages of an endless cause, tripping one another up on slippery precedents, groping knee-deep in technicalities, running their goat-hair and horsehair warded heads against walls of words and making a pretence of equity with serious faces, as players might..."
- Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Lawyers were something of a fascination for Charles Dickens, appearing in around a dozen of his novels.

From the sharp-dealing Dodson and Fogg featured in The Pickwick Papers to the down-right lazy Mortimer Lightwood in Our Mutual Friend - The Old Curiosity Shop's Sampson Brass was "one of the greatest scoundrels unhung". Dickens, it seemed, was not particularly enamoured with the legal profession.

Still, the evolutionary, organic nature of the English common law system, we are led to believe, is one to be envied - emulated even, especially for its economic effectiveness.

After evolving over centuries, it's still working, so must be good, right?

But how justified this claim to superiority over other systems really is, is the key theme of Niall Ferguson's third Reith Lecture.

"Like the human hive of politics, or the hunting grounds of the market economy, the legal landscape is an integral part of the institutional setting in which we live our lives," says Prof Ferguson.

But as the American economist and social scientist Mancur Olson argued, over time, all political systems are likely to succumb to sclerosis - mainly because of rent-seeking activities by organised interest groups.

Prof Ferguson says, in the case of the law, the biggest self-interest group is arguably the legal profession - especially in the USA, once the benchmark for justice, where the rule of law has become the rule of lawyers.

But there other signs indicating the decline of the English common law system, says Niall Ferguson:

  • The erosion of civil liberties by the national security state - something which is not exclusive to the post 9/11 world.
  • The intrusion of European law, in particular the incorporation of the 1953 Convention on Human Rights - "Napoleon's revenge," says Ferguson.
  • The increased complexity and sloppiness of statute law, as a result of a mania for elaborate regulation among the political class.
  • The increasing cost - to both citizens and the business world.

Reform to a system which Prof Ferguson says is on the decline is hard to imagine when, as he claims, there is so much other rot - among the legislature, the regulators, as well as the legal system.

"Ultimately, the change must come from outside the realm of public institutions," he says - "It must come from the associations of civil society. It must come from us: the citizens."

And that is the subject of Niall Ferguson's fourth and final Reith Lecture, Civil and Uncivil Societies, which you can hear on Radio 4 next Tuesday at 0900.

Listen to Niall Ferguson's Reith Lectures

Download Niall Ferguson's 2012 Reith Lectures

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Niall Ferguson's third lecture, The Landscape of the Law, will be repeated on Radio 4 on Saturday, 7 July at 22:15 BST.

In his fourth and final lecture, titled Civil and Uncivil Societies, Niall Ferguson asks asks what constitutes a vibrant and independent civil society. This will broadcast on Radio 4 on Tuesday, 10 July at 09:00 BST.

Bookclub: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

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Jim Naughtie 16:00, Sunday, 1 July 2012

Editor's note: Radio 4's Bookclub is on at 4pm this Sunday 1st July and is repeated on Thursday 5th July at 3.30pm. You can also listen online after broadcast or download the podcast - CM

Elizabeth Taylor

I confess that until I read Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont for this month's programme, I hadn't opened a book by Elizabeth Taylor. This is something which produces knowing looks from aficionados who're aware of the secret, and rather proud of it. Too many people are in my position, so it's a good thing that we decided to celebrate her centenary with that book. But who to play the author? Step forward, David Baddiel. He was in the same position as me until not long ago, when someone suggested that he might find it helpful to read her for the work he was doing in preparation for his latest novel, The Death of Eli Gold. He found himself hooked. So we all spent a pleasant hour or so with this month's readers trying to discover what her secret is.

Set in the early 1970s, Mrs Palfrey is the story of a woman who has moved into a West London residential hotel as she moves into the last phase of her life. Taylor's brilliance lies in the way she paints in meticulous detail the relationships that develop around her. There's a lovely Baddiel phrase, which he uses in his introduction to another of her books, Sleeping Beauty - "she's the missing link between Jane Austen and John Updike." By that he means that she has both the ironic detachment of a novelist who can move from close to a distant shot with perfect ease, and also the ability - here's the Updike bit - to "give the mundane its beautiful due" which is another lovely phrase.

As David put it in explaining his enthusiasm for the book, she paints on a small canvas and finds the fantastical in the doings of real people, without recourse to myth or magic. They take on an irresistible quality - they're frayed and complicated in their dealings with each other, and readers discover quite quickly that they care about what happens to them. For those of you who don't know the book, the central relationship is between Mrs Palfrey and a young down-at-heel writer called Ludo which involves game-playing and challenges from both sides as well as a great deal of powerful affection and understanding. The portrayal of old age is sympathetic which is why the novel, though bleak in its way, is so moving. In her writing, Taylor gives the impression of never using tricks.

It's interesting that she died, in 1975, without reaching the old age that she seems to comprehend so well in her fiction. One of our readers said she had started to read Taylor in her forties and now, thirty years later, she is moved by how accurately the novelist can catch the quality of old age - its toils but its satisfactions too. Mrs Palfrey is someone who is in decline - Ludo is with her to the end - but there is nothing sentimental about that journey. In the hotel, where among other things she has to deal with an unlikely proposal of marriage and uses Ludo to impersonate a grandson who is said to be coming to visit, she exercises considerable sway, though it is a place where she has gone to live out the quietness of her life.

David described her as a funny writer who is "irredeemably true", whose comedy lights up some of the bleakness that's inherent in dealing with old age.

He went so far as to say that he sees Mrs Palfrey as a kind of tragic heroine - or certainly a tragicomic one - because the destiny which she has accepted at the Claremont is one that she faces with dignity. She knows why she is there, the stage she has reached, and therefore there is no question that she will ever accept a proposal of marriage from Mr Oswald, another of the elderly residents. She does, however, develop a touching relationship with Ludo, which blossoms in an unlikely way. It's a picture of warmth that becomes, bit by bit, something like love, and that delicacy is the quality that our readers most admire in her writing.

Where, someone asked David, was he going to go in old age, when infirmity started to kick in?

The Claremont, of course. "I quite like the sound of it."

And one of them had a question that seemed to both David and myself very perceptive. She had made a connection in her mind between the scene at the Claremont - with its elderly residents, the patches of black humour, the social comedy - and Fawlty Towers. As David pointed out, there's a darkness in Basil's world that's not a million miles away from some of the anger that flows around the Claremont, mostly just under the surface, at the relentless progress of old age.

A typical Bookclub listener - maybe she is the first to have spotted something. I wonder if John Cleese ever read Elizabeth Taylor?

I do hope you enjoy the progamme.

Our next recordings are with Victoria Hislop, on The Island, on July 10 in London and then September 25th in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with David Almond, on Skellig.

Happy reading.


Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub

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