Radio 7 to become Radio 4 extra

Hidden away on the BBC Arts and Entertainment page a couple of days ago  was confirmation that BBC Radio 7 is to re-brand as Radio 4 extra.

It has also been announced that the amount of Children’s programming will be slashed from its current three hours a day to just one hour during weekdays by the looks of it.

Radio 7, or BBC 7 as I still think of it due to early branding decisions which have stuck like mental glue in my mind, is the station I listen to most often.  It’s not unusual for me to hear the ‘classic comedy’ half hour slot three times in a day, at 8am, 12pm lunchtime, then at 7pm (I’ve given up listening to The Archers live, it’s much easier to keep in sync with the podcasts).

We all fear change in our radio listening, so closely related that they are to other activities which we do whilst listening.  For years the Radio 4 comedy programme on Saturday lunchtime kept me company as I drove to visit my  gran, catching the tail end of the Radio 2 comedy slot on the way home.  And Chris Evans gets me out of bed very effectively in the mornings, if only because I would rather do anything than listen to his banal chat and gimmicky jingles.

Radio 7 has its problems.  Too-small a selection of comedies which are repeated too often (I can recite huge chunks of many episodes of After Henry, but there is absolutely no excuse for repeating any episode of King Street Junior, even once.  But it offers a unique place to listen to gems of the BBC that otherwise would not be heard.  It’s no use placing them in an online archive, accessible to all, if you don’t even know that they exist.  I was always very dismissive of Hancock’s Half Hour, but they were performing surreal humour before even the goons and monty python, all with a cast of just four.  I would never have selected an episode through choice though. ‘Push’ radio still has its place.

So, if the controller of the new Radio 4 Extra dropped me an email asking me what the new station should sound like, what would I say?

Firstly, don’t stream serials over five days – very few people listen at the same time each day, and missing a middle section of a drama or mystery makes it impossible to catch up.  Give us them in a chunk of 90 minutes, edited if need be, or with links between your underused presenters.

Keep the Saturday morning three hour comedy controller slots, but commission some new ones – many of the current batch are over five years old, and comedy moves on.

If you’re losing the children’s slot in the morning, make sure that there is something there which people can wake, drink their tea, and shower to.  So no Great Expectations or War and Peace readings,but repeats of ‘light’  books of the week, comedy quiz shows, and short sketch shows where if we miss the punchline racing from one room to the next.

Oh, and on the overnight repeats, which I know there has to be,make sure that the promotional links are quieter for those of us who are only half listening in bed.

I know there are much more pressing things that deserve our attention at the moment, but ensuring that ‘new’ Radio 4 Extra is as loved as ‘old’ Radio 7 will make a fair few of us sympathetic to the BBC – but please no more King Street Junior!


2 comments so far

  1. Simon Stanford on

    Great heads up in this post. I wasn’t aware of this at all.

    I too always think of it as BBC 7 ( early branding was very “platform agnostic” ).

    I’m not sure I like the implications of “Radio 4 Extra” and BBC7 does have its own identity and has commissioned some excellent new material so I hope they will keep doing that.

    Simon x

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Hollyhead, Simon Stanford. Simon Stanford said: RT @andyhollyhead: Radio 7 to become Radio 4 extra […]

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