Radio 4

There is a great debate under way about the services provided by BBC Radio 4; an article in the newspaper invited a number of contributors to suggest changes they would make to the programming if they were in charge.

I have a radio in every room in my flat; there’s one in the bathroom because a bath without ‘Book at Bedtime’ just isn’t the same pleasure;  and one beside my bed because I need the even tones of a Radio 4 speaking voice to lull me to sleep and to wake me up in the morning.

When I’m away from home I either listen to the podcasts of favourite programmes I’ve downloaded specifically for the purpose of rocking me to sleep, or catch programmes over an internet connection to my PC.

Still there are programmes that  I only ever hear half of, because I’ve fallen asleep or because I’ve been listening in the car and arrived at my destination before the end; sitting in a car park to hear the last few minutes somehow feels a little odd.

With more time I could plan my day around the programmes I would like to listen to and catch up on, but so far I’ve never achieved this.

Needless to say then that I am the holder of strong opinions about the service, and never one to let the opportunity for drawing up a list go by, here are some of my favourites as well as my personal black list.


Today Programme, but only before 7, after that they become far too argumentative and shouty.

The World Tonight , but I prefer Ritula Shah to Robin Lustig.

In Our Time and Front Row which I listen to as podcasts

Thinking Allowed which quite frequently keeps me company very late at night.

Desert Island Discs, of course.  This is one of those where I don’t think I could have as a friend a person who couldn’t discuss the whys and wherefores of guests’ choices, at length.

I also quite enjoy the late night Saturday quiz shows Round Britain Quiz and even Brain of Britain, although I wouldn’t necessarily seek them out if their timing changed.

And finally, I like some of the drama; last year’s version of the Smiley novels starring Simon Russell Beale were programmes I waited for.

Now for the ones that make me turn the radio off:

Something Understood – regular readers will already know my opinion of this

You and Yours – oh dear, so dreary.

Those awful unfunny standup comedy shows/ the shouty performance poetry shows that are on at 6:30 in the evening and sometimes at 11 too.

Today in Parliament it’s far too noisy for the time of night it’s on.

Any Questions/Any Answers/Moneybox Live and anything  else at all involving public phone ins.  Just Don’t.  Isn’t Radio 5 Live the place for all that painful audience participation?

And finally those two holy cows Gardener’s Question Time and The Archers. Can’t bear ’em

So now I’m ready for a good debate.  What are your favourites?

Leave a comment


  1. margaret nickels

     /  February 20, 2011

    Gardeners question time has the best weather forecasts ! And Womens Hour is quite often very cutting edge .

  2. margaret nickels

     /  February 20, 2011

    I forgot to say that my all time favourite is : From Our Own Correspondent and I rather like the Shipping Forecast too.

  3. At one time R4 was all I listened to. Myself I quite enjoyed the afternoon plays and the Friday serials. I also enjoyed some, but not all, of the 6:30 comedy shows (some where awful though).
    My favourite news was the Six o’clock one and oddly, I am male after all, I often enjoyed Women’s Hour.

    Now I rarely listen to R4, I must get back into the habit.

  4. YingYingChina

     /  February 23, 2011

    I like OpenBook alot and The Long View

    • YingYingChina

       /  February 23, 2011

      becuz as a foreigner, the two programmes offers me a chance to look into British literature, history and culture. I was listening to the Long View programme about Epping Forest and got very interested in it. I think I will go there if I travel to the UK in the future.

      • YingYingChina

         /  February 23, 2011

        by the way I hope BBC Radio 4 will continue to keep its “Britishness” rather than make itself more international. If people want to listen to international content they can go to BBC world service and I would like BBC Radio 4 to maitain its “localness” for british culture

      • Thank you. You’re right Open Book is a treat I should have included on my list. I’ve not tried The Long View but will check it out.
        It’s very interesting to hear your view that R4 should retain its ‘British’ feel – sometimes when I return from having been away I feel that it feels a bit ‘Little England’, but that may be part of its charm. I’d not be without the alternative of the World Service though.

  5. Pauline Liu-Devereux

     /  February 23, 2011

    I realise this may not be a popular opinion, but I keep wondering who decided on the desirability of 24 hour news? I listen to Radio 4 for most of the day. I agree that some of the comedy in the 6.30 slot is tedious and there are programmes I turn off (including The Archers these days) but it’s the regular news bulletins that I really dislike. First thing we have the Today programme which is a good start to the day when they aren’t interrupting or shouting, but then we have news on the hour, an extended programme at lunchtime and again at tea time. Often they don’t have anything new to say and we are listening to opinions about what might happen but then again might not. I don’t want to be less informed but I do find some of the bulletins very repetitive and wonder if there need to be so many?

    • I agree to a certain extent about the news, although things like CNN and BBC24 are worse. I tend not to listen to the radio during the day so am not bothered by the extra mid day and tea time bulletins. SO long as there is Today between 6 and 7 and The World Tonight at 10pm I’m happy!

  6. Sarah Eno

     /  February 28, 2011

    Love lots of R4. Science and nature best – can Costing the Earth be on earlier? I know you can download but never get time to do that, Like the Saturday morning programmes from shipping forescast onwards. Can we have some good length programmes on some innovative or non-mainstream views and activities for example, alternative economics such as New Economics Foundation, ethical investment and ethical banking; social enterprises, workers co-ops etc? There could be good news stories about the positive steps people take to manage their lives in environmentally low impact ways.
    Please keep going…

  7. Laura Roberts

     /  February 28, 2011

    Love – Just a minute although regret I never had the chance to listen to Kenneth Williams and it’s a shame to no longer hear Clement Freud with his dry langourous tones. I think Lisa Tarbuck is brilliant and of course any contribution by Paul Merton is very funny and think Nicholas P is a very good sport to put up with all the ribbing he gets. The News Quiz is also very enjoyable and never get tired of hearing Sandi Toksvig lose control when she laughs too much.

    Also love Woman’s Hour although it’s a shame you can’t scroll through past programmes and listen to them as easily as you could before – still not mastered the Podcast system yet (but my defence is that computers were not yet introduced in school while I was still at one.

    As for personal dislikes I am not a huge fan of the Archers, not least because their token Scots character (Jezzer?) has a ridiculous name and accent – yes I’m Scottish….

    Not sure what to make of the shipping forecast – glad it’s there for genuine fishermen potentially facing “A perfect storm” but can’t fathom why it would be of interest to anyone not planning to set sail in the near future.

    • So many enjoyable things. I agree about Just a Minute and New Quiz although I don’t always catch them. I always turn the Shipping Forecast off – can’t bear that ‘Sailing By’ music that precedes it…..

    • David Hunt

       /  March 2, 2011

      I’m sorry, but I cannot agree about The News Quiz. I find this programme unutterably offensive, cheap and often in the worst possible and insulting taste – aand a lot os this Ms Toksvig’s fault. Along with a lot of others I find the 6.30 “comedy” (sic) spot absolutely awful. What on earth would Alvar Lidell and Bruce Belfridge make of what has become of the Home Service?

  8. David Hunt

     /  March 2, 2011


    Ronald Binge’s ‘Sailing By’ is one of the most wonderful pieces of British light orchestral music ever written.

    • Individual perceptions of ‘comedy’ are very interesting to me as I rarely find it amusing…but given the amount broadcast that I think is truly terrible, I can only assume that there are people out there whose tastes are very different to mine. I think we’re just going to have to agree to differ about ‘Sailing By’.

  9. I’m with you on Ritulah Shah, a real smooth operator is that lass.

    The Archers, the accursed Archers. I don’t quite so much mind the foul thing being on the air for its wasted 30 minutes per day. Its the endless trailing/advertising and sub programmes explaining its utter nonsense covering the network.

    You can’t escape the tripe.


  10. What is it with the BBC they are offering work and apperances to the disgraced former Home Secretary Jaqui Smith , a women who only got her job through a short list not merit and totaly unfit as it proved for the job in recent weeks she has had 2 apperances on Question Time , an apperance on the Andrew Marr programme , then offered a squalid little programme about porn and then a spot on Womans Hour to talk about this latest role . The Smith woman is totally unreliable , totally untruthful and totally insincere for Radio 4 to feature this grasping female is a low point for the station and for the BBC to invites and pays Smith to appear on BBC TV proves all we ever feared about dumbing down and the lowering of standards and if anyone at the BBC thinks Radio 4 regular listeners want to listen to such a topic even worse by a disgraced Ex MP whos job it was to uphold the law of the land but broke that law and escaped punishment and is now being feted by the dumbed down sector of the BBC staff is such a low for this Corporation.

    • Can’t say I ever watch Question Time or the Andrew Marr show largely because they are generally peopled by those I wouldn’t trust to post a letter so to me her inclusion seems ‘business as usual’. She’s not the sharpest tack in the box though: I once had to show her how to use the automatic coffee machine in the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras. My approach will be to operate the off switch.

  11. B Whiteside

     /  March 8, 2011

    We are just suffering another dollop of Neil Nunes, continuity announcer. Or so he likes to think. He sounds like an over-keen actor auditioning for a part he’s not likely to get and about as appropriate on Radio 4 as, say, Charlotte Green would be on Radio Jamaica. He’s far too obtrusive – listeners of long-standing just want minimum programme information delivered without making a production of it. I swear I’ll break a limb in my haste to switch off his glutinous tones. That’s what I mean by a dollop. Ugh.

    • Opinions differ about his voice I believe. I quite enjoy hearing him – his voice is so warm and rich. Individual reactions to regional accents are interesting – there are some I’m no fan of, but his washes over me very smoothly.


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