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Radio 4 Extra – more information

Information is slowly emerging about about the upcoming switch from Radio 7 to Radio 4 Extra.


It appears that the switch will happen in the ‘first week in April’ – information about the new Archer’s spin off points to this date.  You’ll also see that I’m one of the few people who’s written a comment in support of the new programme- the first time I have been moved to do so on the BBC site (check out comment 11 on the posting).  For me, this couldn’t be worse timing assuming the ‘first week’ of April is the 4th April.  I’m in Lancaster for my PhD residential, though I will of course be taking a radio with me.


We don’t know much about the schedule yet, though I guess like all Radio programmes it will be published a week in advance.  Ambridge Extra will be on twice a day, at 10:00 and 14:15, so that seems to indicate that there will be repetition as there is now, though could we hope for maybe a little less (8:00, 12:00, 19:00 ‘classic comedy’ for instance, if I’ve had a hard day in front of the keyboard it’s possible if not likely that I will here each of these repeats, and be able to act as a prompt to The Men from the Ministry).  It’s unclear too what will happen to current programmes which haven’t finished their run.  I’m enjoying The Navy Lark, and whilst each episode is pretty well interchangeable, it would be a shame if they can’t complete the entire run.  I do hope that they keep the zoned programming though, it’s nice to know that I can turn the radio on at (say 10pm), and know there’s going to be comedy, or if I’m unfortunate Heated Rollers.


Well we know that there are going to be extended versions of The News Quiz / Now Show, and classic Desert Island Discs – so that will be something to look forward to.  Other nuggets in the press release state that some new comedy will be premiered on Radio 4 Extra before its outing on Radio 4.  This is a good idea, given how comedy programmes frequently transfer from the Radio (I listened to Miranda Hart’s Comedy Shop on Radio 2 well before the first series aired on BBC2, and the rest of the world ‘discovered her’).

Catch Up

It looks like there will be more podcasts available for off-line listening (Keri Davies has confirmed Ambridge Extra will be a podcast too), and of course there’s always iPlayer.  Worryingly though, buried in the BBC’s online strategy I remember reading that they were considering ‘spinning off’ Radio from the iPlayer.  If so, this is a mistake – so much time has been spent integrating the two services, and even my mom, who is not a techie can click on the iPlayer icon I’ve put on her desktop and access any Archers episodes she has missed.


That’s all that I’ve been able to gleam, and it seems that even the BBC News site can add little to the current knowledge, they’re keeping this all pretty hush hush apart from trailing the launch ‘coming soon’ fairly heavily on Radio 4.  I’ll resist posting more until actual launch, though if you hear anything, feel free to add a comment below.



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!