One of the formulae developed by Radio 4 is the Radio 4 Appeal, that gentle five-minute monologue which appears at odd times over the weekend, in which soft-voiced celebrities plead soulfully for a cause. Almost every cause has been pleaded for over the years. All except one, the very one which allowed all the others to benefit. I mean, of course, Radio 4 itself. Nobody has ever pleaded for Radio 4 itself. Till today. Because here today is the exclusive text of:
You know, we in Britain are very good about listening to the radio.
We automatically turn it on when we get up in the morning. Which is why Today has got such good listening figures. That’s very good.
But when we go to work, we turn the radio off again.
That’s not so good.
We may not turn the radio on again for the rest of the day.
Oh, it’s all right for you, going to work, coming home, watching the telly, going to bed....
But have you ever spared a thought for the poor people who are putting out Radio 4 all day long?
Not since you turned off Today in the morning have you given a single thought to the poor, wonderful, creative people who have been slaving away all day long to put out other programmes, many just as good as Today, and many a lot better.
Recent statistics show that only a small minority care enough for Radio 4 to listen to it during the day.
Even more recent statistics show that that minority is getting smaller.
Now, the people who make Radio 4 are not the complaining sort. They always keep smiling, no matter what the listening figures, because they know they are doing their best, despite being buggered about by BBC management.
No, I’ll rephrase that.
Despite the very real attempts by BBC management to make very real savings. By doing such things as selling studios and firing technical staff and giving up training people and settling for lower standards and calling it Producer Choice....
But I digress.
The people who make Radio 4 programmes do their very level best to be valuable members of society.
By using as much archive material as possible, in programmes like Desert Island Discs, and Private Passions, and all those nostalgia programmes about old comedy stars, and music hall memories, and Gershwin, all of which is another excuse to repeat stuff for no extra fee....
They vary their material.
By introducing as much music into talk programmes as possible, and by introducing as much talk into music programmes as possible. By introducing stand-up comedians into every discussion show and quiz show possible. And by moving programmes around to different time slots to make it seem as if they are making changes.
And yet Radio 4 people are not happy.
They are not happy because television rips off their best ideas and takes all the credit, yes, I am thinking of Any Questions becoming Question Time, and Alan Partridge moving over, and the News Quiz giving birth to the rather inferior Have I Got News For You ...
They are not happy, because fewer people are listening to them.
And it’s nice to be listened to.
That’s where YOU can help.
Won’t you do a bit of listening too?
That’s all I’m asking.
Just for you to sit and listen to these people a bit every week.
Well, every day, really.
You see, it makes an awful lot of difference to them to know they are being listened to.
You may decide to listen to Radio 4 at a time when Radio 4 seems to be rambling a bit. It might be going on about some old American composer, or some abstruse economic theory, and you might think to yourself: ‘Blimey, why should I sit and listen to this elderly party giving forth this load of gibberish...?’
But be patient.
It will make sense after a while.
Or, if it doesn’t, something else more sensible will come along.
Yes, Radio 4 is very old now, so you must be patient. But Radio 4 is very wise too, like a lot of old folk, so you will find your listening an enriching experience.
Just give a few hours each week.
That’s all we ask.
That was an appeal on behalf of Radio 4. If you want to know more, just tune your radio to 92-95 FM and leave it there even when you go out. Thank you.
The Independent Thurs Nov 5 1998