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Radio 4 listeners switch off clueless comedy (Read 570 times)
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Radio 4 listeners switch off clueless comedy
May 12th, 2019, 11:44am
So-does R4 does need a bit of a big re-think or .....?
Read on.....

BBC Radio 4 listeners switch off clueless comedy
Matthew Moore, Media Correspondent
May 11 2019
The Times

Listeners are no longer seeing the funny side of Radio 4’s early evening comedy programmes, according to the BBC’s own research.

Audience satisfaction in the station’s flagship 6.30pm comedy slot — which includes The News Quiz, The Now Show and The Unbelievable Truth — has tumbled over the past year.

Internal BBC figures show that regular listeners are also falling out of love with Radio 3, the classical music station, and Radio 4’s poetry programming on Sunday afternoons.

The BBC assigns each programme and network an appreciation index score out of 100, based on the verdicts of 8,000 viewers and listeners who are surveyed daily. These scores are used with traditional ratings to decide what shows should be axed or recommissioned. The scores are not usually made public, but some have been shared with production companies as part of the tendering process for new shows.

Audience appreciation of Radio 4’s 6.30pm comedies has fallen from 79 in 2017 to 76 last year, while the station average which edged down from 81 to 80. The 6.30pm slot is home to favourites such as I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and Just a Minute, but in recent years the station has struggled to find successful formats and listeners are switching off. The slot’s weekly reach has declined from 3.3 million in 2017 to 2.87 million.

The perceived declining quality of Radio 4 comedy is a frequent listener gripe. In a note to independent producers, Sioned Wiliam, the comedy commissioning editor, said she was not looking for any more panel shows, satire, improvisation, or literary parodies.

The score for Radio 4’s poetry slot at 4.30pm on Sundays has fallen from 73 to 68 in a year. However, the Archive on 4 documentary series rose from 76 to 77, doing particularly well with 15 to 34-year-olds. Listener satisfaction with Radio 3 has dropped from 84 to 79, while Radio 2 is steady at 82 despite the loss of Chris Evans to Virgin Radio and drivetime host Simon Mayo to Scala.

The internal documents show that Radio 2’s priority is to boost its audience among less-well-off women aged 35-44. These women —identified as “time poor” and “family orientated”, and who “put children first and are tight for money” — prefer commercial stations like Heart, Smooth and Magic. The station recently appointed Zoe Ball, 48, and Sara Cox, 44, to lead its morning and early evening output.

Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4 are all struggling with budget cuts as the corporation seeks to find £800 million in savings by 2021-22. Funding is being targeted at youth stations such as Radio 1 and the new Sounds audio app to attract younger listeners.

Radio 4 sources have complained that the station is being “asset stripped”. The station’s next controller will be announced shortly after Gwyneth Williams quit this year. John Humphrys is expected to present his last Today programme in September.

The BBC said the appreciation index score for comedy for 2017 was particularly high, hence decline last year. A spokeswoman said: “More than 10.5 million people tune in to Radio 4 each week. Our latest data shows an increase on 2018 and 2017 and are the highest for five years. Friday night comedy attracts millions of listeners on air and [on] our podcast.”

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