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BBC Radio 4

bbc radio 4, bbc radio 4 extra
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  • Worldwide stream URL HLS, 48 Kbps AAC+
  • Worldwide stream URL HLS, 96 Kbps AAC+
  • Worldwide stream URL HTTP progressive, 128 Kbps MP3
  • UK-only stream URL HLS, 128 Kbps AAC
  • UK-only stream URL HLS, 320 Kbps AAC
Website wwwbbccouk/radio4

BBC Radio 4 is a 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 The station controller is Gwyneth Williams; and the station is part of BBC Radio and the BBC Radio department The station is broadcast from the BBC's headquarters at Broadcasting House, London

It is the second most popular domestic radio station in the UK, broadcast throughout the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands on FM, LW and DAB; and can be received in eastern and south eastern counties of Ireland, the north of France and Northern Europe It is also available through Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media and on the Internet Its sister station, BBC Radio 4 Extra formerly BBC Radio 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

It is notable for its news bulletins and programmes such as Today and The World at One, heralded on air by the Greenwich Time Signal "pips" or the chimes of Big Ben


  • 1 Outline
  • 2 History
  • 3 Programmes and schedules
    • 31 Daily schedule
    • 32 Production
    • 33 Programmes
  • 4 Notable continuity announcers and newsreaders
    • 41 Main newsreaders/continuity announcers
    • 42 Newsreaders non-Today programme/continuity announcers
    • 43 Continuity announcers
    • 44 Former staff
  • 5 Frequencies and other means of reception
  • 6 Criticisms
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 External links


BBC Radio 4 is the second most popular British domestic radio station by total hours, after Radio 2 – and the most popular in London and the South of England It recorded its highest audience, of 11 million listeners, in May 2011 and was "UK Radio Station of the Year" at the 2003, 2004 and 2008 Sony Radio Academy Awards It also won a Peabody Award in 2002 for File On 4: Export Controls Costing £714 million 2005/6, it is the BBC's most expensive national radio network and is considered by many to be its flagship There is no comparable British commercial network: Channel 4 abandoned plans to launch its own speech-based digital radio station in October 2008 as part of a £100m cost cutting review

In 2010 Gwyneth Williams replaced Mark Damazer as Radio 4 controller Damazer became Master of St Peter's College, Oxford

Music and sport are the only fields that largely fall outside the station's remit It broadcasts occasional concerts, and documentaries related to various forms of both popular and classical music, and the long-running music-based Desert Island Discs Prior to the creation of BBC Radio 5 it broadcast sports-based features, 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, 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 - the number relying solely on long wave is now a small minority

The cricket broadcasts take precedence over on-the-hour news bulletins, but not the Shipping Forecast, carried since its move to long wave in 1978 because that can be received clearly at sea The station is the UK's national broadcaster in times of national emergency such as war, due to the wide coverage of the Droitwich signal: if all other radio stations were forced to close, it would carry on broadcasting It has been claimed that the commanders of nuclear-armed submarines believing that Britain had suffered nuclear attack were required to check if they could still receive Radio 4 on 198 long wave, and if they could not they would open sealed orders that might authorise a retaliatory strike

As well as news and drama, the station 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 UK 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


Logo of Radio 4 until 2007 See also: BBC Home Service

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 Radio 4 replaced it on 30 September 1967, when the BBC renamed many of its domestic radio stations, in response to the challenge of offshore radio It moved to long wave in November 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 carried regional news bulletins Monday to Saturday, these were broadcast twice at breakfast, lunchtime and an evening bulletin at 555pm Plus programme 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 from 645 am to 845 am 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

All regional news bulletins broadcast from BBC regional news bases, around England ended in August 1980

The South West, was the only exception, having no BBC local radio these news bulletins and its weekday morning regional programme Mornin' Sou West an out-put of Today continued to be broadcast from the BBC studios in Plymouth on VHF and the Radio 4 relay on medium wave, until 31 December 1982 and just before the launch of BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Devon

The launch of Radio 5 on 27 August 1990 saw the removal of Open University, schools programming and the "Study on 4" adult education slot to the new station resulting in the full Radio 4 schedule being available on FM for the first time Between 17 January 1991 and 2 March 1991 FM broadcasts were replaced by a continuous news service devoted to the Gulf War, Radio 4 News FM, with the main Radio 4 service being exclusively on long wave In September 1991 it was decided that the main Radio 4 service would be on FM as coverage had extended to cover almost all of the UK Opt-outs were transferred to long wave: currently Test Match Special, extra shipping forecasts, The Daily Service and Yesterday in Parliament Long wave very occasionally opts out at other times, such as to broadcast special services, the most recent being when the Pope visited Britain in 2010

The longwave signal is part of the Royal Navy's system of Last Resort Letters In the event of a suspected catastrophic attack on Britain, submarine commanders, in addition to other checks, check for a broadcast signal from Radio 4 on 198 longwave to verify the annihilation of organised society in Great Britain

Programmes and schedules

Daily schedule

The simulcast from the BBC World Service begins at 01:00 and 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, despite public opposition and a campaign to save it After a continuity link and programme trail there are a shipping forecast, weather reports from coastal stations for 04:00 GMT 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 at 05:45, Farming Today, which deals with news of relevance to the agricultural sector, is followed by Tweet of the Day, a 2-minute feature looking at different species of birds through their songs and calls The morning news and current affairs sequence Today then runs for three hours from 06:00 to 09:00 on weekdays for two hours from 07:00 on Saturdays

The remainder of the day's schedule is determined by the day of the week, with the following 'fixtures' on weekdays: Book of the Week at 09:45 the Daily Service on LW, Woman's Hour at 10:02 including a 15 Minute Drama at 10:45, You and Yours at 12:15, The World at One and a repeat of the previous day's The Archers at 14:02, the Afternoon Drama at 14:15 At 17:00 another current affairs programme, PM, is broadcast At 18:30 there is a regular comedy 'slot', The Archers at 19:02, Front Row at 19:15 and a repeat of the 15 Minute Drama at 19:45 The World Tonight airs at 22:00, followed by Book at Bedtime at 22:45 At weekends the schedule is different, with other fixed features at various times

News is broadcast at the top of each hour: a two-minute summary, a longer bulletin as part of a current affairs programme, or a 30-minute programme on weekdays at 18:00 and midnight At 12:00, FM carries a four-minute bulletin while long wave has the headlines followed by a shipping forecast; on weekdays, long wave also leaves PM for a three-minute shipping forecast at 17:54

There is a news programme or bulletin depending on the day at 22:00 A report on the day's proceedings in the Westminster Parliament is broadcast as Today in Parliament at 23:30 and repeated as Yesterday in Parliament, on LW only, at 08:31 the following morning 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 As the timing of the forecast is critical, the Sailing By theme must be started at a set time and faded in as the last programme ends Radio 4 finishes with God Save the Queen, and the World Service takes over from 01:00 until 05:20

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

An online schedule page lists the running order of programmes


Many programmes are pre-recorded Programmes transmitted live include 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 managed from Broadcasting House with 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 The news returning to Broadcasting House has also meant that newsreaders can provide cover for continuity, which regularly occurs at 23:00 each night and 16:00 on a Sunday This has reduced the total number of continuity announcers required each day down from four to three

The Time Signal, known as 'the pips', is broadcast every hour to herald the news bulletin, except at midnight and 18:00, where the chimes of Big Ben are played


Main article: List of BBC Radio 4 programmes

Radio 4 programmes cover a wide variety of genre including news and current affairs, history, culture, science, religion, arts, drama and light entertainment A number of the programmes on Radio 4 take the form of a "magazine" show, featuring numerous small contributions over the course of the programme—Woman's Hour, From Our Own Correspondent, You and Yours The rise of these magazine shows is primarily due to the work of Tony Whitby, controller of Radio 4 from 1970 to 1975

The station hosts a number of long-running programmes, many of which have been broadcast for over 40 years

Most programmes are available for four weeks after broadcast as streaming audio from Radio 4's listen again page and via BBC iPlayer A selection of programmes is also available as podcasts or downloadable audio files Many comedy and drama programmes from the Radio 4 archives are rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra formerly BBC Radio 7

Due to the capacity limitations of DAB and increasing sport broadcasts on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Radio 4 DAB has to reduce its bit rate most evenings, such that after 7pm its DAB output is usually in mono, even though many of its programmes are made in stereo including its flagship drama "The Archers", these can only be heard in stereo on FM, Digital TV on Freeview & Freesat Ch 704, Sky, Virgin and on line via BBC i-player radio BBC World Service which uses BBC Radio 4 FM & DAB frequencies between 01:00am and 05:20am is in stereo, but only on Radio 4 FM & DAB and not on its own dedicated DAB channel BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcasts in mono on DAB, but has always been in stereo on Digital TV Freeview / Freesat Ch 708, Sky, Virgin and online

Notable continuity announcers and newsreaders

Announcers link programmes and read trails for programmes and the Shipping Forecast Newsreaders read hourly summaries and longer bulletins In 2012 the BBC announced that it would be reducing its main presentation team from 12 to ten

Main newsreaders/continuity announcers

The following are primarily newsreaders including reading the bulletins on the Today programme but also contribute to much of the continuity output:

Newsreaders non-Today programme/continuity announcers

  • Jim Lee
  • David Miles
  • Alan Smith

Continuity announcers

  • Neil Nunes

Former staff

  • Alice Arnold 1994-2012
  • Carolyn Brown left 2015
  • Harriet Cass left 2013
  • Peter Donaldson 1973-2005 ; freelance 2005-2013; died 2015
  • Marian Foster now presenting Garden Mania on BBC Newcastle
  • Charlotte Green 1988-2013
  • Peter Jefferson left 2009
  • Astley Jones left 2006
  • Laurie Macmillan died 2001
  • Rory Morrison died 2013
  • Jamie Owen
  • Brian Perkins
  • Iain Purdon now with BBC World Service
  • Moira Stuart left 1981 to TV; now with BBC Radio 2

Frequencies and other means of reception

Radio 4 is broadcast on:

  • 92–95 MHz FM in England, and from some transmitters in Wales
    • 946–961 and 1035–1049 MHz in Scotland
    • 932–960 and 1035–1046 MHz in Northern Ireland
    • 1030–1045 MHz from other transmitters in Wales
  • 198 kHz longwave Droitwich, Burghead, and Westerglen
  • Medium wave in some areas:
    • 603 kHz in Newcastle upon Tyne
    • 720 kHz in London, Derry and Belfast
    • 756 kHz in Redruth
    • 774 kHz in Plymouth and Enniskillen
    • 1449 kHz in Aberdeen
    • 1485 kHz in Carlisle
  • DAB
    • Standard FM content
    • Subsidiary LW content, where applicable
  • Freeview channel 704 FM only
  • The Internet
    • iPlayer live streaming
  • Digital satellite:
    • Radio 4 FM:
      • Freesat channel 704
      • Sky channel 0104
    • Radio 4 LW:
      • Freesat channel 710
      • Sky channel 0143
  • Virgin Media channel 904 FM, channel 911 LW
  • Selected other cable television providers Also on various frequencies on analogue cable networks
    • Virgin Media Ireland channel 910 in Republic of Ireland
  • TalkTalk TV channel 604


There have been criticisms voiced by newspapers in recent years over a perceived left-wing bias across a range of issues such as the EU and the Iraq War, as well as sycophancy in interviews, particularly on the popular morning news magazine Today 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

There has been frequent criticism of Radio 4—and Today in particular—for a lack of female broadcasters In September 1972, Radio 4 employed the first female continuity announcers—Hylda Bamber and Barbara Edwards an event which caused the Daily Mail to proclaim that Radio 4 had "fallen" to women's liberation For quite some time, the introduction of female newsreaders led to complaints from listeners; women discussing topics of feminist interest led to similar complaints

This led the satirical magazine Private Eye to lampoon Woman's Hour as "Women's Whinge", and the network as FemFM

Radio 4 has also been frequently criticised for being too middle class and being of little interest to non-white listeners

See also

  • ABC Radio National
  • CBC Radio One
  • List of BBC newsreaders and reporters
  • National Public Radio
  • Radio New Zealand National
  • RTÉ Radio 1
  • Sveriges Radio P1


  1. ^ a b History of the BBC: 1960s
  2. ^ "Listening Figures – Quarterly Listening – All Individuals 15+ for period ending March 2012" RAJAR April 2012 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 Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards — Winners 2008" Radioawardsorg Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  6. ^ 62nd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2003
  7. ^ "BBC Annual Report and Accounts 2005/2006, page 106" PDF Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  8. ^ a b 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 
  9. ^ "Gwyneth Williams appointed BBC Radio 4 controller" The Guardian 15 July 2010 Retrieved 15 July 2010
  10. ^ "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 
  11. ^ "Met Office Shipping Forecast key" Metofficegovuk 19 November 2008 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  12. ^ "Radio silence puts subs on nuclear alert" 28 November 2003 Manchester Evening News Retrieved 27 July 2010
  13. ^ BBC Press Office "The Today Programme" BBC 
  14. ^ a b "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" Slatecom 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. ^ "savetheradio4themecouk" savetheradio4themecouk 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. ^ Hendy, David 2007 Life on Air: A History of Radio Four Oxford University Press pp 78–79 ISBN 9780199248810 
  24. ^ "Radio 4: Listen Again" BBC Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  25. ^ "Radio 4 – Downloading and Podcasting" BBC Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  26. ^ "''Being a newsreader'' by Harriet Cass" BBC 30 April 2008 Archived from the original on 28 June 2008 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  27. ^ "List of BBC Radio newsreaders" London: BBC News 11 July 2007 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  28. ^ Charlotte Green and Harriet Cass to leave BBC Radio 4
  29. ^ "Ways of Listening to Radio 4" BBC 15 April 2006 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  30. ^ "BBC analogue broadcast frequencies" BBC Retrieved 28 November 2012 
  31. ^ BBC Radio 4 on Freeview
  32. ^ a b "Free Channels on the Sky Digital Satellite Platform" Wickonlinecom Archived from the original on 5 April 2010 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  33. ^ Fisk, Tracy 6 February 2007 "Is Radio 4 alienating its core audience" London: Telegraph Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  34. ^ BBC report damns its ‘culture of bias’ – Times Online Archived 26 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "BBC is given EU 'bias' rap | The Sun |HomePage|News|EU Referendum" London: The Sun 5 October 2007 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  36. ^ Leonard, Tom 27 October 2006 "The BBC's commitment to bias is no laughing matter" London: Telegraph Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  37. ^ "BBC Bias" Labour-watchcom Archived from the original on 16 April 2010 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  38. ^ "Stephen Pollard: I don't want bias with my cornflakes — Commentators, Opinion" The Independent London 20 October 2003 Retrieved 19 March 2010 
  39. ^ Hasan, Mehdi 27 August 2009 "Bias and the Beeb" New Statesman Retrieved 5 November 2009 
  40. ^ Barnett, Emma 16 July 2013 "Another woman on Radio 4's Today programme The BBC ain't joking" London: The Telegraph Retrieved 4 January 2014 
  41. ^ Hendy, David 2007 Life on Air: A History of Radio Four Oxford University Press pp 99–100 ISBN 9780199248810 
  42. ^ Midgley, Neil 8 February 2011 "BBC Radio 4 'too middle class and London-centric'" The Telegraph Retrieved 4 January 2014 
  43. ^ Mair, John 22 February 2008 "Am I bovvered that Radio 4 is too middle class No!" The Guardian Organ Grinder Blog Retrieved 4 January 2014 
  44. ^ "Radio 4's Woman's Hour is 'too middle class and there's too much cooking', says new presenter" London: Mail Online 4 February 2008 Retrieved 4 January 2014 

Further reading

  • d'Arcy, Kevin 2007 The voice of the brain of Britain: a portrait of Radio Four Rajah Books ISBN 978-0-9556706-0-2 
  • Elmes, Simon 2007 And Now on Radio 4 Random House ISBN 978-0-09-950537-2 
  • Hendy, David 2007 Life on Air: A History of Radio Four Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-924881-0 
  • Mullen, L 29 September 2007 "20 things you didn't know about Radio 4" The Times TV & Radio London Retrieved 2 October 2007  subscription required

External links

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