BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 logo
Broadcast area United Kingdom
Frequency FM: 92.5–96.1 MHz, 103.5–104.9 MHz
LW: 198 kHz
MW: 603 kHz, 720 kHz, 774 kHz, 756 kHz, 1449 kHz, 1485 kHz
DAB: 12B
Freesat: 704 (FM), 710 (LW)
Freeview: 704 (FM)
Sky (UK only): 0104 (FM), 0143 (LW)
TalkTalk TV: 604 (FM)
Virgin Media: 904 (FM), 911 (LW)
UPC Ireland: 910 (FM)
Various frequencies on analogue cable
First air date 30 1967 (1967-09-30)
Format News, talk, and drama
Language(s) English
Audience share 12.5% (December 2012, [1])
Former callsigns BBC Home Service
Owner BBC
Sister stations BBC Radio 4 Extra
Webcast Web Stream (FM service)
Web Stream (LW service)
Stream URL (eAAC+) (FM service)
Stream URL (eAAC+) (LW service)
Website Script error: No such module "URL".

BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, owned and operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967.[1] The station controller is Gwyneth Williams, and the station is part of BBC Radio and the BBC Audio & Music department. The station is broadcast from the BBC's headquarters at Broadcasting House, London.

BBC Radio 4 is the second most popular domestic radio station in the UK, and is broadcast throughout the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands on FM, LW and DAB, and can be received in the north of France and Northern Europe as well. In addition, the station is also available through Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, and on the Internet. Radio 4's sister station, BBC Radio 4 Extra (formerly known as BBC 7), complements the main channel by broadcasting repeats from the Radio 4 archive, extended versions of Radio 4 programmes and supplements to series such as The Archers and Desert Island Discs.

BBC Radio 4 is notable for its consistent news bulletins and programmes such as Today and The World at One, which are heralded on air by the Greenwich Time Signal "pips" or the chimes of Big Ben.

Outline[edit | edit source]

Radio 4 is the second most popular British domestic radio station by total hours,[2] after Radio 2 – and the most popular in London and the South of England.Template:Fact The station recorded its highest ever audience of 11 million listeners in May 2011[3] and was named "UK Radio Station of the Year" at the 2003, 2004 and 2008 Sony Radio Academy Awards.[4][5] Costing £71.4 million (2005/6),[6] it is the BBC's most expensive national radio network and is considered by many to be the corporation's flagship. There is no comparable British commercial network as Channel 4 abandoned plans to launch its own speech-based digital radio station in October 2008 as part of a £100m cost cutting review.[7]

In 2010, Gwyneth Williams[8] replaced Mark Damazer as Radio 4 controller. Damazer then became Master of St Peter's College, Oxford.[9]

Music and sport are the only fields that largely fall outside the station's remit. However the channel does broadcast occasional concerts, documentaries related to various forms of both popular and classical music, as well as the long-running music-based programme Desert Island Discs. In addition, prior to the creation of BBC Radio 5, the station broadcast several sports-based features, most notably Sport on Four and since the creation of BBC Radio 5 Live has become the home of ball-by-ball commentaries of most test cricket matches played by England, which are broadcast on long wave. As a result, for around 70 days a year, listeners have to rely on FM broadcasts or increasingly DAB for mainstream Radio 4 broadcasts. However the number of those relying solely on long wave is now a small minority.

The cricket broadcasts even take precedence over on the hour news bulletins, but not Shipping Forecast. Radio 4 has carried these regular weather forecasts for shipping and gale warnings since its move to the Long Wave frequency in 1978 because the long-wave service can be received clearly at sea around the coasts of Britain and Ireland.[10] The station has also been designated as the UK's national broadcaster in times of national emergency such as a war: if all other radio stations were forced to close, Radio 4 would still carry on broadcasting.[7] It has been claimed that Radio 4 had an additional role during the Cold War: the commanders of nuclear-armed submarines believing that Britain had suffered nuclear attack were required to check if they could still receive Radio 4, and if they could not would open sealed orders which might authorise a retaliatory strike.[11][12]

As well as news and drama, and despite a reputation for being middle class and London centric,[13] Radio 4 also has a strong reputation for comedy, including experimental and alternative comedy, many successful comedians and comedy shows first appearing on the station.

The station is available on FM (in most of Great Britain, parts of Ireland and the North of France), LW (throughout the United Kingdom and in parts of Northern Europe, and the Atlantic north of the Azores to about 20 degrees west), MW (in some areas), DAB, Digital TV (including Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media), and on the Internet.

History[edit | edit source]


Previous logo of BBC Radio 4 until 2007

The BBC Home Service was the predecessor of Radio 4 and broadcast between 1939 and 1967. It had regional variations and was broadcast on medium wave with a network of VHF FM transmitters being added from 1955 onwards. Radio 4 replaced the Home Service on 30 September 1967, when the BBC renamed many of its domestic radio stations,[1] in response to the challenge of offshore radio. It moved to long wave in 1978, taking over the 200 kHz frequency previously held by Radio 2, and later moved to 198 kHz as a result of international agreements aimed at avoiding interference.

For a time during the 1970s Radio 4 still carried some regional variations for parts of England not served by BBC Local Radio stations. These included Roundabout East Anglia, a VHF opt-out of the Today programme broadcast from BBC East's studios in Norwich each weekday morning from 6.45 am to 8.45 am.[14] Roundabout East Anglia came to an end in 1980, when local radio services were introduced to East Anglia with the launch of BBC Radio Norfolk.[14]

Until 1990 Radio 4's VHF/FM frequencies broadcast Open University, schools programming and the "Study on 4" adult education slot at various times of the day because until the 1990s, Radio 4 was not available on FM in much of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The launch of Radio 5 in September 1990 saw the removal of all three strands to the new station resulting, for the first time, in the full Radio 4 schedule being available on FM. However, between 17 January 1991 and 2 March 1991, the FM broadcasts were replaced by a continuous news service devoted to the Gulf War, nicknamed "Scud FM", again with the main Radio 4 service being exclusively on long wave. In September 1991 bosses decided that the main Radio 4 service would be on FM as FM coverage had by now been extended to cover almost all of the UK. At this point, opt-outs were transferred to long wave, which are currently Test Match Special, extra shipping forecasts, The Daily Service and Yesterday in Parliament. Long wave also very occasionally opts out at other times, such as to broadcast special services, the most recent being when the Pope visited Britain in 2010.

Radio 4 is part of the Royal Navy's system of Last Resort Letters. In the event of a suspected catastrophic attack on the United Kingdom, submarine commanders, in addition to carrying out other checks, would check for a broadcast signal from Radio 4 to verify the annihilation of civilization in the United Kingdom.[15]

Programmes and schedules[edit | edit source]

Daily schedule[edit | edit source]

The night-time feed from the BBC World Service ends at 05:20, with a brief introduction from the early shift continuity announcer. The five-minute Radio 4 UK Theme (composed by Fritz Spiegl) followed this for 28 years until April 2006. It was replaced by an extension to the early news bulletin,[16][17] despite some public opposition[18] and a campaign to save it.[19] After a continuity link and programme trail there is a shipping forecast, weather reports from coastal stations for 04:00GMT and the inshore waters forecasts, followed at 05:30 by a news bulletin, a review of British and international newspapers, and a business report. On weekdays, Farming Today, which deals with news of relevance to the agricultural sector, is followed by the Today programme from 06:00 to 09:00.

After the Today programme, the schedule is then determined by the day of the week, though on every weekday there are 'fixtures': Woman's Hour at 10:00, You and Yours at 12:00, The World at One and a repeat of the previous day's The Archers at 2:00 pm, followed by the Afternoon Play at 2.15 pm. At 5:00 pm another current affairs programme, PM, is broadcast. At 6:30 pm there is a regular comedy 'slot', followed by The Archers. At weekends the schedule is different, but also has its 'fixtures' at various times.

On or after the hour, a news bulletin is broadcast—this is sometimes a two-minute summary, a longer piece as part of a current affairs programme, or a 30-minute broadcast on weekdays at 18:00 and midnight. At 12:00, FM has a four-minute bulletin while long wave has the headlines and then the Shipping Forecast; for the same reason, long wave leaves PM on weekdays at 17:54.

There is a news programme or bulletin (depending on the day) at 22:00. The midnight news is followed on weekdays by a repeat of Book of the Week. The tune Sailing By is played until 00:48, when the late shipping forecast is broadcast. Timing is said to be difficult as the Sailing By theme must be started at a set time and faded in as the last programme ends. Radio 4 finishes with the national anthem, God Save the Queen, and the World Service takes over from 01:00 until 05:20.

Timing is considered sacrosanct on the channel. Running over the hour except in special circumstances or occasional scheduled instance is unheard of, and even interrupting the Greenwich Time Signal[20] on the hour (known as 'crashing the pips') is frowned upon.

An online schedule page lists the running order of programmes.[21]

Production[edit | edit source]

Many Radio 4 programmes are pre-recorded. Programmes transmitted live include daily programmes such as Today, magazine programme Woman's Hour, consumer affairs programme You and Yours, and (often) the music, film, books, arts and culture programme Front Row. Continuity is generally managed from Broadcasting House as well as news bulletins, including the hourly summaries and longer programmes such as the Six O'Clock News and Midnight News, and news programmes such as Today, The World at One and PM, which by early 2013 had returned to Broadcasting House after 15 years at BBC Television Centre in White City.[22]

The Time Signal, known as 'the pips', is broadcast every hour to herald the news bulletin, except at midnight and 6 pm, where the chimes of Big Ben are played instead.

Programmes[edit | edit source]

Radio 4 is distinguished by its long-running programmes, many of which have been broadcast for over 40 years.

Most programmes are available for a week after broadcast as streaming audio from Radio 4's listen again page[23] and via BBC iPlayer. A selection of programmes is also available as podcasts or downloadable audio files.[24] Many comedy and drama programmes from the Radio 4 archives are rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra (formerly BBC Radio 7).

Continuity announcers and newsreaders[edit | edit source]

Announcers link programmes and read trails for programmes and for the Shipping Forecast. Newsreaders read hourly summaries and longer bulletins.[25][26]

Senior Announcer[edit | edit source]

Newsreaders/Continuity announcers[edit | edit source]

Newsreaders (non-Today programme)/Continuity announcers[edit | edit source]

Continuity announcers[edit | edit source]

  • Mairead Devlin
  • Arlene Fleming
  • Jim Lee

Former staff[edit | edit source]

  • Alice Arnold (1994-2012)
  • David Anderson (left to senior management, but covered during the May 2005 strike)
  • Bill Bingham (1980–1982)
  • Louise Botting (presenter of Money Box, 1977–1992)
  • Louise Bruce
  • Piers Burton-Page (1975–1977)
  • Pauline Bushnell
  • Harriet Cass (left 2013)
  • Edward Cole
  • Andrew Crawford (can still be heard announcing I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue)
  • Peter Donaldson (1973-2005 [Senior Announcer 1988-2003]; Freelance 2005-2013)
  • Matthew Exell
  • Charlotte Green (1988-2013)
  • John Hedges
  • Anna Hill (left ~2000 – now presents Farming Today)
  • Peter Jefferson (left 2009)
  • Astley Jones (left 2006)
  • Jonathan Lampon (now with BBC Radio Leicester)
  • Jenny Lane

Frequencies and other means of reception[edit | edit source]

Radio 4 is broadcast on:[27]

Criticisms[edit | edit source]

There have been criticisms voiced by newspapers in recent years over a perceived liberal bias at Radio 4 across a range of issues such as the EU and the Iraq War,[31][32][33][34] as well as sycophancy in interviews, particularly on the popular morning news magazine "Today"[35][36] as part of a reported perception of a general "malaise" at the BBC. Conversely, the journalist Mehdi Hasan, has criticised the station for an overtly "socially and culturally conservative" approach.[37]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 History of the BBC: 1960s
  2. "Listening Figures – Quarterly Listening – All Individuals 15+ for period ending March 2012". RAJAR. 2012-04. Archived from the original on 1 June 2012. 
  3. Guardian 12 May 2011 Retrieved 16 May 2011]
  4. The Sony Radio Academy Awards: Winners 2004[dead link]
  5. "Sony Radio Academy Awards — Winners 2008". Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  6. "BBC Annual Report and Accounts 2005/2006, page 106". Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 John Plunkett (10 October 2008). "Channel 4 has abandoned its entire radio project, as it seeks to make £100m in savings". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  8. "Gwyneth Williams appointed BBC Radio 4 controller" The Guardian 15 July 2010 Retrieved 15 July 2010
  9. "BBC News — Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer leaves the BBC". 12 April 2010. Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  10. "Met Office Shipping Forecast key". 19 November 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  11. "Radio silence puts subs on nuclear alert" 28 November 2003 Manchester Evening News Retrieved 27 July 2010
  12. BBC Press Office. "The Today Programme". BBC. Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. 
  13. Neil Midgley (8 February 2011). "BBC Radio 4 'too middle class and London-centric'". 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "BBC Radio Norfolk's 25th anniversary". BBC. 9 September 2005. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  15. Rosenbaum, Ron (9 January 2009). "Nuclear apocalypse and the Letter of Last Resort. – By Ron Rosenbaum — Slate Magazine". Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  16. "Press release: New early morning schedule for Radio 4". BBC. 23 January 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  17. "UK Theme to be dropped by Radio 4". London: BBC News. 23 January 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  18. "Today: The UK Theme". BBC. 13 April 2007. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  19. "". 28 March 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  20. "Pip pip". London: BBC. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  21. "Radio 4 Daily Schedule page". BBC. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  22. "New era for Broadcasting House". London: BBC News. 31 October 2000. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  23. "Radio 4: Listen Again". BBC. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  24. "Radio 4 – Downloading and Podcasting". BBC. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  25. "''Being a newsreader'' by Harriet Cass". BBC. 30 April 2008. Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  26. "List of BBC Radio newsreaders". London: BBC News. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  27. "Ways of Listening to Radio 4". BBC. 15 April 2006. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  28. "BBC analogue broadcast frequencies". BBC. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  29. BBC Radio 4 on Freeview[dead link]
  30. 30.0 30.1 "Free Channels on the Sky Digital Satellite Platform". Archived from the original on 5 April 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  31. Fisk, Tracy (6 February 2007). "Is Radio 4 alienating its core audience?". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  32. BBC report damns its ‘culture of bias’ – Times Online[dead link]
  33. "BBC is given EU ‘bias’ rap | The Sun |HomePage|News|EU Referendum". The Sun. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  34. Leonard, Tom (27 October 2006). "The BBC's commitment to bias is no laughing matter". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  35. "BBC Bias". Archived from the original on 16 April 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  36. "Stephen Pollard: I don't want bias with my cornflakes — Commentators, Opinion". The Independent (London). 20 October 2003. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  37. Hasan, Mehdi (27 August 2009). "Bias and the Beeb". New Statesman. Retrieved 5 November 2009. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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