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Read this: 29/03/2020 Radio 4 Feedback

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29/03/2020 Radio 4 Feedback…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello and welcome to feedback this week will be devoting all of our program to an interview with the BBC's director of education James Purnell and put it to him some of the questions you have sent us will try and find out what his priorities are whether further schedule changes are in the pipeline.

What sort of programs Mason go offer and of course ask him if Radio 4 file on 4 team of journalists are investigating why the coronavirus has not hit ambridge the Archers in totally unaware of the pandemic and in the second part of our interview will be discussing some of the longer term strategic challenges facing the corporation which will include a worsening financial position and of course the future of the licence fee itself, so let's get started and I'm not during by James Purnell welcome to feedback.

I'm in my city.

Where are you? I'm in my bedroom because your produce asked me to find somewhere this offer anything to help with the quality of the sound so but I'm at home at the moment.

We're doing this on Thursday afternoon.

What are your immediate priorities with the BBC been working very hard over the last 2-weeks to try and help the most vulnerable in a very concerned about so that's been about making sure the people who really shouldn't be in the office so I staying at home but also the most vulnerable in the audience.

You know this is a time when the BBC can play an important role in Thames old informing the public tender mean.

There's lots of people self isolating and we can be a vital lifeline to people so so it's about balancing those two about the presents that you've lost I mean people have noticed for example In Our Time with melvyn.

Bragg is running repeats not originating programs.

How difficult is it to keep all the programs going?

Which ones have you lost well? We've got quite a few programmes on Radio 4 we're stopping the recording of drama for example because they involve people getting getting to E16 music with comfort pure presenters and longer programs and then people rotating week to week, but it's very much so I can see across across.

The network is trying to work out.

How can we perform those public purposes but look after our staff look after people who are most vulnerable in Monkstown staff and try and make sure that we are you bringing radio Services to people with respond with the particular circumstances of this crisis.

So this means that in a drama comedy of anything with an audience.

So where several people have to be in the studio at the same time.

They're unlikely to survive but this also people might forget about the fact that you've got to have enough technicians on the other side of the microphone to record them.

Yes, that's very good point then.

I'll come to the second but I will say that.

Comedy or drama people BBC Radio incredibly inventive and we've already got ideas coming in for new comedy, so people who are going to be a series called now wash your hands which is going to be very about about what's happening at the moment.

Will it take me to drama with within the current constraints in and sample recording podcasts that something which is quite well suited to people who are not able to come in so we're going to have a very good offer for people across all of our radio networks and we going to be also looking at bringing back a lot of archive content so turn into a studio manager particular.

I mean they are doing absolutely heroic job as you all know better than anyone making sure that we can keep on getting services out to people does incredible Batman of Invention in terms of call programs from home and recording this with technology with two weeks ago.

We would have would never dream of using so it's been it's not really about Silver Linings it is.

Something that I think people should be aware of that teams are going into the office finding ways of broadcasting and recording it's not exactly the same kind of sound quality that we would like but it's better to have a service on there than none at all Today programme this morning.

I noticed was setting presented for the First Time by to present has Nick Robinson and Martha Kearney in their own homes so in a Swamp Thing doing a recorded interview like this, but try to do something so good that we had some people calling in and saying why is everybody in the same studio? They should be socially distance things we actually say that that's what's happening because actually comes down makes it sound like they're on the same place when they're very much love and Radio 5 Live no effort into radio London in the middle of the night between 1 in the morning and 5.

Will you increasingly have to think of doing this combining services in the future or do you think you can sustain the present level certainly news and current affairs but we very much want to avoid.

Mining services because we think they are you know.

They are all extremely valuable and play a complementary set of role of roles and we are already having to look at simplifying the schedule as I said we done that on one and six.

We will continue to have to look at different scenarios and work out what we do if we have horrible people able to come into the the office or if we decide that's the right thing right thing to do so it's something we keep on the review but at the moment.

We're not looking to close any of our Kevin FM radio Services praised for the BBC's coverage, but I'm from Hillary has been echoed by several listers the great deal of anxiety and the majority of the population who have no role other than stay at home and hopefully stop panic buying.

Before I believe it might be a good move to have an escape channel which sounds normal, but has no news no coronavirus.

No phone is and has a mid-market appeal Sir James Purnell is there a case for an escape channel people can do that on sounds if they want to they could go in and just listen to the content of the describing.

We have had that suggested to us and we discussed it.

I think we feel that a key part of our role is to inform people and you know we also do that through networks, but I think it's also very important to do it through music and pop networks as well, so I wouldn't want to take the news completely off the music services, but you must be worried about people's mental health is an awful.

Lot of coronavirus programs and what 6 series including life in lockdown viral exposure the virus Hunters Fallout inside of the virus and now there's

Rhinovirus newscast podcast now of course people don't have to switch on but isn't there a danger of going over the top I don't think so I do think you know moment of the national emergency.

There's a public health crisis and one of the ways in which you prevent getting worse his by informing people about the about the measures that have been taken and if you I would say that I'll pop networks played an absolutely vital role over the weekend have lots of young people we're still going out.

You know every single one of them is found their own way of talking about how audiences should be changing their behaviour so I would say that is you know one of the ultimate answer examples of Public Service Broadcasting and absolutely none of that pressure on people's mental health, but I wouldn't want to have services where people can completely get away from the information that so vital at the moment well one place that they could go to get away.

Is the Archers but listen Richard Griffin isn't happy that the program in his view isn't probably reflecting the coronavirus situation, please.

Tell me where the Archers an important source of interest and information has not yet made any reference to covid-19 and would have expected some mention in the of the seriousness to all of us in the UK surely the restrictions we are facing apply to ambridge normally important issues found their way into the storyline editors must rise to this challenge and write responsibly into the storyline.

Please start soon.

Do you agree with that? Well? I would make understanding because continuing drama is one of the areas that obviously is affected by the ban on people getting together and in the way that question I think is a compliment to how topical the Archers managed to be even though and it's important to understand.

This is recorded in a 45 weeks in advance so the team in Birmingham have worked incredibly hard.

Sure, they have as many episodes in the candles they can if they can have but they were recorded in advance.

They weren't able to reflected, but it's very very strange.

Isn't it mean if the if the idea that this is a everyday story of Farming folk and in a what's going on in our farms is vital to our future in the supply of food and things like that it can be very strange to have a soap which doesn't make any reference to that at all.

So do you have to say to them either make a reference or you may have to come off here.

I think I'll be able to come off the teams are thinking about it and I'm not going to speculate on what's going to happen in The Archers no one no one ever does but I would just make a police wireless as to to be understanding of the fact that this is also where real life into the we have to be mindful of the health of the people who work on the Arches as well.


Don't want to walk around the virus coverage as you've heard but there are some suggestions about what they do want here.

Walker thanks for making available so many great Radio 4 comedy programmes on sounds.

They have really helped me to cope with anxiety when it hits in the middle of the night and I cannot sleep with the covid-19 worries and so many people being anxious about the future.

You should keep on and publicize their Matthew Gillen the BBC cracking job, but is a person who is self isolating.

Would they please please significantly boost the amount of Drama available on BBC sounds it would be invaluable to me as a means of keeping my spirit and no doubt for others whiling away the hours and I wanted to ask whether the BBC will be happy to put up on sounds complete coverage of all test matches lunch breaks and all even whole series of that was possible.

I can think of no better way to while away the days of self isolation and hear the likes of August offers and codes soothing the collected fevered brow.

Pernell how about the back catalogue of TMS as well as more comedy and drama but I'll pass on the idea that TMS to the to the team, but there is there's a lot of support of their the Match of the Day 10 has just landed which is the match of the day team going through their the top 10 captain's or their top 10 goal scorers.

There's a there's a huge amount of archive comedy and drama on sound so I can leave your listeners want more and thank you very much for those nice nice words.

Just urge them to go to the the categories section in the app at the bottom go to comedy go to drama and as the fantastic amount of content hancock's Half Hour classic comedy that's a modern content such as Alison Jones isolation tape we got some audiobooks coming up as well Margaret Atwood the testaments is one example, but I was talking to the team only today and they are looking at what they can get one more archive they can get so watch out for even more period

The sounds of it is absolutely right that said a great thing that the app can do right now is to offer people that sort of endless choice of contents of the archive and were absolutely going to be doing more that I see there's a real opportunity for BBC Radio here, Carolyn Gibson what about your younger audience or rather? How could you use this time as an opportunity to get a generation? Hope from listening Jane Holmes as a child I used to look forward to the BBC children's programmes.

Is there any chance that you could resurrect these in some form, Howard Swift from Riccall North Yorkshire what's an ideal opportunity to broadcast educational programs for those unable to attend school university has the Next open University student radio such a gift in learning this would also be an opportunity to put such programs.

Is a podcast so people could keep them or replace them as and when required well it's what has been director of radio course you are director of education.

Do you see this as an opportunity for education programs at this time for your listeners who want some programs for young young audio files are pointed towards CBeebies radio which is in the dial and a wealth of content therefore.

No two sixes, but your your lessons at absolutely right suggest that there's more than we can do for education and we have already said that we're going to provide some classes everyday for primary and secondary school children.

Who are at home? So we'll be doing that making available on the red button and on iPlayer will be fine audio content from In Our Time for example which is always a great resource for people doing GCSEs and A-levels and then we seen a huge increase in traffic to our bite-sized and website.

The place where children at primary school and secondary school can help do their their revision in particular and go deeper so watch this space.

We had planned to have some more detail that very soon and then essentially be the kind of the Frontline of education for children who are able to go into the school but it's a real test for you.

Isn't it? Because young people on the Hill attended to YouTube to find what they want.

You've got to send her persuade them to come across to you and I find out about sounds.

I think the two can work hand-in-hand.

You know if you look at the radio and alarm for example that something which was brilliantly on YouTube that also works very well on Radio 1 in education.

You know we have a very large number of people coming to Bitesize particularly as it comes up to time every year you know that part of the years was the BBC's most used products that so we want to use both handed end.

Of course.

There's someone for resources on YouTube but if people want quality assured.

Teaching which we write for their syllabus would be right for every nation in the UK then that is something that will be providing through BBC education so I think the to be very complementary to each other with the eminence Knockdown and older citizens being more isolated.


Could you ask your producers and editors if they could introduce more programs for the older generation so much Radio 4 how to attract a younger audience with programs but sometimes of poor quality alongside.

This is very evident that you're using younger and younger voices with mature voices gradually disappearing from the Airways please.

Could you consider us as we need our radio more than ever at this time of course you get caught between Scylla and charybdis on this the more you provide for order listeners the more the young girl in it still hurts not provide the youngest as old as an elected certainly people have noticed on 5 Live that the number of all the presenters are leaving and younger ones are coming in is that a deal?

Decision decision about wanting to face out all the presenters.

It's about making sure we have the right lineup for an audience over the the news and sport the people want is highly skilled presenters and make sure we have a line out for continues to be the right one to five live but people will have noticed that shot John Inverdale no longer with the network.

Yes, but if you're back and look at the history of five live or any network.

There's always a turnover of people you know if I've live our goal is to make sure we keep it as a national network and the network which appeals to all ages, so it can be the place where we have a national conversation about news and Ford we haven't got many people living in and tuning is not able to do that job well just for now.

Thank you very much for the moment, but please do stay with us while we give details of how listeners can contact us to give us their comments and questions resulting from this interview of course anything to do with.

The radio and podcast this is how you get in touch you can send an email to feedback at or write a letter to the address is feedback box 67234 London se1p 4ax.

You can follow activity on Twitter by using that BBC R4 feedback we can call us and leave a phone message on 03345 standard landline charges apply, but it could cost more on some mobile networks always details are on our website now back to the BBC's director of radio and education James Purnell and in this part of our interview.

I want to stand back a little from the current prices.

Look at some of the longer-term issues facing the corporation before coronavirus struck this government was highly critical of the BBC with subject to get to a financial squeeze and sudden.

Downing Street sources were talking of smashing it reducing its Range and getting rid of the licence fee altogether but with no idea whether attitudes and government have changed but we do know that the government is due to announce the result of its consultation on decriminalizing evading payment of the licence fee was the BBC fears will lead to a significant drop in its income the situation is in any case getting worse for the BBC since it has had to suspend cuts in its new service which would produce savings and is also delaying the removal of free TV licences from some of the over 75s so it's not only of the chancellor who was a big financial headache the BBC's future will in no Small Part depend on how the licence fee payers think it's doing in the present crisis here are some of your thoughts beginning with Graham Rowe the wall-to-wall coverage about the virus is one thing but the increased need to present in the material by Radio 4 is likely to be having a

Negative impact on the mental health of listeners especially as a large proportion of BBC Radio 4 listen as I like to be those more susceptible to the worst impact of the virus.

I've never turned off Radio 4 as much as I do now.

I used to be the biggest and the BBC and especially Radio 4 but with its increasingly responsible behaviour.

I'm very sad that you don't understand why people are arguing that the licence fee should be scrapped Susanna fabulous wonderful Radio 4 you're doing fantastically well never have you been so essential and holding the nation together maintaining excellent standards with humour and improvisation.

Thank you, Georgia Houghton from st.

Albans in these uncertain indeed surreal times the BBC is proving what a gem it is.

I hope that we will now see a changing Attitude by the powers that be to the BBC and I hope they realise how essential it is to the Nation's well-being.

Which one of your jobs to help improve the morale of the country yes, I think it is you know at this moment when we got lots of people who are self isolating not seeing anyone most people at home.

It's very important to keep up people's morale provide company for people and provide a window on on the outside world, so that can be used to be comedy can be the right piece of music.

We do that feels very very important at this time at the same time.

It's rival the BBC remain independent of government and ask searching questions particularly now Parliament is not sitting an unprecedented powers so difficult town isn't it? You don't want to be seen to be undermining the government's efforts, but you've got to be sceptical.

You've got to make sure that when oppositions Express they have a voice on your networks.

It's a very testing time for The Corporation isn't it? I think it's something that the corporation has learnt over many decades and you know of course we're here to inform the public.

The winter here to challenge any politician and any sort of expertise as well as by asking the right questions that you can find out whether that piece of information is valid or not and the people who know their stuff you properly researched can always come up with the Dancers so that's that's something which I think the BBC News had to do very well.

This is more testing and retesting turn on the server before it's almost like in wartime when I remember reading about 9/11 in paying about the only person in the House of Commons criticising Churchill but Churchill having the good grace to say I'm glad he's doing it, but it's a lot of people say, how dare you are boys lives at risk and people will now be saying give the government the chance support the Health Service we don't want any carping and yet, you have to go on asking the difficult questions to be honest.

That's not a problem that I really feel is one of the main ones at the moment.

You know people understand.

They were here to ask the right questions sometimes.

There's a tough questions sometimes they just questions to get information.

People know what they should be doing and how they should be looking out for themselves, and I think anyone listen to the news programs would have heard some just absolutely brilliant interviews which were doing doing exactly that and it's a vital vital role that radio provides a time like this continue even politics in regards to BBC and you must be concerned about your deteriorating for position at how damaging would it be if the government goes ahead after its consultation with the decriminalization of the payment of the non-payment of the licence fee looked at a few years ago by an independent review by QC for this government and at the time.

We thought it would cost the research done and 200 million pounds so 5% of our income.

We fear now will be much much higher because there has been to the way that people have it to changing around subscription television for example but we doing some.

On that and we will put those numbers forward as a key thing that we would say is that Review also looked at whether having a criminal sanction was appropriate and they found yes, it was as long as you can't turn off BBC TV and BBC Radio then you have to have an incentive for people to pay.

I'm having a criminal sanction does seem to be a way of as a very last backstop, make sure that most people pay with a doing this country you have a very very low rate of the days until we think we got a system which works well.

I think it's worth saying last in a last year only 5 people went to prison for non-payment of fines is normally not just the licensee is a range of fines and it is the normal practice in this country that if you will fully avoid paying designs there is an ultimate sanction, but of course no one want anyone to go to prison, but is a government goes ahead with decriminalizing it.

That's going to be a big financial hit already.

You are having to suspend cuts in use as I meant.

And you disponed taking away as some people would see it free licences from some over 75 still haven't paid it before you suspended until August will you suspended that will get rid of that policy altogether and just accept you must continue to provide services for those people at the moment.

We are just focusing on this person of the crisis.

We didn't think it was appropriate to start what's this is this is happening.

I know it's something the board keeps on The Wonder of You but what is true? Is that the end of this crisis whatever happens? Let's hope it's ready to be suing the BBC will be in the worst financial position in the expected to be and if the government doesn't come to your aid financially will services have to be cut and if they have to be good who should decide because a lot Google say it shouldn't just be the BBC that you decide where the way it works is a regulatory system.

It would be for the board of the BBC to make those proposals and then there's a roll.

Come through social services and we would consult with listeners and viewers as part of that, but we'll have to close your services won't there in a few if the situation deteriorated significantly further there was talk before it deteriorated of cutting services now.

It's always be inevitable wanted.

I don't think it should be inevitable will want to talk to government about making sure that the BBC is is properly supported and are the governor talking to a wide range of organisations about about the short-term but after this crisis is over you know we will be making the argument for a well-funded BBC and there's a Life review coming up in 20 21 22 where there's an opportunity for us to make to make that case and should there be an independent review by government on Public Service Broadcasting so that we get into when we decide what it is and what we want before we decide how and why and how much we should pay for it.

Yes, well.

There is going to be a review by Ofcom Public Service Broadcasting so.

Not just the BBC but also the other public service broadcasters in I Think Public Service Broadcasting remains something which is vital to our Society makes the UK a better informed more socially cohesive place with great creativity and that's something which we will certainly be arguing to be supported well into the future, but some people would say it's for the BBC also to reorient itself.

I mean for exam.

What to say that's what we're going through the moment demonstrates that the new service at the heart of what BBC is the most important thing should not be cut there's also going to say the BBC does not need to compete with Netflix Netflix will never do local and period British broadcasting the BBC itself should set the lead in redefining what Public Service Broadcasting is in this country and what the BBC should be doing are you in a position to do that we are always looking at that Every Generation the bosses and staff the BBC was always looking at how the BBC food chains and that's why the BBC today.

Is very different from the BBC in the 1950s or 60s or any decade in between but what has been absolutely at the heart of the BBC always is that it's a wide mission to inform educate and entertain and it's spring everybody in and I think that is a vital part of Public Service Broadcasting in this country.

So how that delivered we were always up for debate about the weather that is a good thing is something which we are very very strongly committed to wear jeans for now BBC director of radio in education.

Thank you very much indeed for talking to us from your bedroom and that's all from feedback for this week.


Keep emailing funding and right again next week.

We have to be talking to you what it's like to chat any questions with no one else in the room until then keep safe and keep separate goodbye.

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