Fears for the future of Radio 4

Fears for the future of Radio 4 amid concerns the BBC is ‘ignoring older middle-class listeners to chase a younger audience’

  • Staff said the station was once viewed as a jewel in the BBC radios’s crown
  • There are fears the station could bear the brunt of announced redundancies 
  • Money has been being piled into BBC Sounds, a podcast and music app  

BBC bosses risk destroying Radio 4 as they ignore older middle-class listeners to try to chase a younger audience, critics say.

Staff at the corporation claim the station – once viewed as a jewel in BBC radio’s crown – is ‘in danger of being destroyed’.

There are fears Radio 4 could bear the brunt of a recently announced round of redundancies, to free up funding for ‘the key strategic objective of attracting more young listeners to BBC services’.

Anger has been focused at BBC director of radio, James Purnell, the former Labour cabinet minister.

Staff at the BBC say that Radio 4 is in danger of being destroyed (stock image of Broadcasting House in Portland Place)

A former senior BBC figure told The Times: ‘The risk for Radio 4 is that it becomes victim of a culture of contempt for older audiences. James is a Blairite through and through, and they never value the old.’

One presenter said: ‘Radio 4 is in danger of being destroyed. The jewel in the crown is being shut down and asset stripped like a Midlands car factory.’

Another added: ‘We risk going after people who aren’t interested in us while losing those who do.’


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Mr Purnell, 49, has been putting money into BBC Sounds, a podcast, music and radio app designed to draw in younger listeners.

Details of the job losses were outlined in an email to all BBC Radio staff on Wednesday.

Anger has been focused at BBC director of radio, James Purnell (pictured above) the former Labour cabinet minister.

It asked for voluntary redundancies in a bid to save on costs and a need to ‘reinvest in the key strategic objective of attracting more young listeners to BBC services’.

Radio 4 programmes have been filled with ‘cheap chat’ and long interviews as there is nothing else to pack shows with, staff claim.

They accused BBC bosses of being willing to sacrifice Radio 4, the corporation’s costliest network, but not Radio 1, 1 Xtra, Asian Network and 6 Music, which are more popular with younger listeners. Colin Browne, of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer pressure group, said: ‘The risk is the BBC is so concerned about losing the young audience that it goes hell for leather in pursuit of youth and neglects its traditional audience.’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘Radio 4 is the most respected speech station in the country with a brilliant on-air schedule and a raft of innovative podcasts on BBC Sounds.

‘In addition to our distinctive music stations, we are also experimenting with a range of content for audiences who might not yet be regular radio listeners.

‘This isn’t about being youth-focused, this is us keeping BBC radio relevant to all of our audiences.’

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