BBC Radio 4 announces refreshed schedule this Spring and raft of new commissions (2024)

We’ve refreshed the schedule to take into account changing listener habits and priorities, with the aim of giving our audience more of what they want, when they want it. We’re shaping the schedule to better accompany listeners through the day and the week, offering the thought-provoking and surprising programming we know matters deeply to them.

This spring BBC Radio 4 will welcome refreshed scheduling, carefully crafted with listener habits in mind. Giving the Radio 4 audience more of the programmes we know they love, the schedule will balance the rigour of our news and current affairs journalism with the usual mix of drama, comedy, science, the arts, history and factual, including some exciting new series and strands.

Most of the schedule stays as it has always been to ensure that audiences get the programmes they want at the times they expect. However, we are moving some key programmes covering important subjects for the audience - food, health, investigations, media - to higher profile slots, mainly with longer durations, to allow a greater depth of enquiry.

We will also shuffle the pack a little in an attempt to suit different moods and needs across the day and throughout the working week. Whether unwinding at the weekend with comedy, art and thought-provoking factual documentaries, or frontloading the week with our most ambitious narrative journalism, the revamped schedule has been designed to give audiences what they want most, when they want it.

Radio 4 is the biggest speech station in the UK with over 9 million listeners. The network commissions nearly 8,000 programmes and podcasts every year. The new schedule will complement our on-demand speech offer on BBC Sounds and see some of our most popular podcasts – You’re Dead to Me, Just One Thing, Uncanny, as well as our big history and investigative narrative storytelling - get a more regular space in the schedule. There will also be umbrella titles for Radio 4’s important single documentaries to make them more discoverable online.

Mohit Bakaya, Director of Speech and Controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra says:“We’ve refreshed the schedule to take into account changing listener habits and priorities, with the aim of giving our audience more of what they want, when they want it. We’re shaping the schedule to better accompany listeners through the day and the week, offering the thought-provoking and surprising programming we know matters deeply to them. At a time when Radio 4’s ambition to cover the most important stories with clear, authoritative journalism, alongside engaging and imaginative storytelling, is more important than ever, the new schedule will remain faithful to the core principles on which Radio 4 is built.”

Highlights of the refreshed schedule include:

More of what listeners love

  • Fan favourite Desert Island Discs will be extended to one hour, and will be first broadcast in the new timeslot of 10.00 on Sunday mornings, a slot it will share with The Reunion, which is also extended (and continues to have a repeat on Friday mornings at 9am). The Archers Omnibus will follow on Sunday at 11am but will be newly available on Sounds from midnight on Sunday morning. The previously unrepeated Friday night episode of The Archers gains a repeat on a Saturday afternoon at 2.45pm.
  • The Media Show will be extended in an hour slot (Wednesdays 4pm-5pm) and Ros Atkins and Katie Razzall will now co-present the programme in a visualised studio, with highlights airing on BBC News (weekends) and BBC World Service (Thursday 10am). The new programme will remain on Wednesday afternoon but will be repeated on Thursdays at 8pm.
  • The Food Programme gets a longer duration of 42 minutes in a new slot on Fridays at 11am, repeated on Saturday evenings at 10.15pm.
  • Radio 4’s investigative news programme, File on 4, will be extended to 42 minutes to allow more time and space for the brilliant quality journalism the programme is renowned for. It will still air first at 8pm on Tuesday evenings, in recognition of its success it will be repeated at 11am on Wednesday to bring it to a larger audience in a more high profile slot.
  • Monday mornings at 11am will also allow space for longer series to delve deeper into topics, with 42 minutes set for short documentary series, often in two or three parts. E.g The Rise and Rise of the Microchip, The Invention Of…, The Patch.

Easier to navigate

  • Single documentaries will live under umbrella brands making the live schedule easier to navigate as well as being simpler to discover on BBC Sounds.
  • Alongside our award-winning Intrigue strand of international narrative investigations, there will be two new umbrella strands for world class narrative audio journalism with a focus on UK centred investigations and history, which will predominantly air Wednesdays at 9.30am or Monday – Friday 1.45pm.
  • There will be a new umbrella of science documentaries on a Wednesday afternoon at 3.30pm, sharing the slot with The Artificial Human.

More joy

  • Free Thinking moves from BBC Radio 3 to BBC Radio 4 and will air at 9pm on Friday evening. Playful and profound, this thought-provoking live hour to end the week is a place where ideas are explored with a round-table of thinkers, writers and historians who give their unique, left field take on the week.
  • The Verb moves from BBC Radio 3 to Radio 4 on Sunday afternoons (5.10pm). In addition, we will launch a special sister programme, The Adverb, which sees Ian McMillan bring six special extended editions recorded at festivals and poetry events, featuring live performance in front of audiences.
  • Saturday welcomes a new late night comedy slot at 11pm and Radio 4 Comedy continues to innovate and challenge audience perceptions with a host of new series.
  • There will be a new documentary slot telling unique and wonderful tales of the sort you only hear on Radio 4. In the long tradition first established by Charles Parker’s Radio Ballads, these will showcase the audio feature maker’s art at its finest, immersing listeners in hidden worlds and stimulating their imaginations through the power of sound and speech.

New commissions

In June, BBC Radio 4 will celebrate the genius of Orwell and Kafka with a special weekend of programming, led by Helen Lewis and Ian Hislop, exploring how the ideas of these great writers resonate in the contemporary world. This includes a dramatisation of Kafka’s The Trial and a major, single day reading of Orwell’s 1984.

There will be a landmark new series called How to Think (w/t), exploring how thinking in different areas has developed over time.

At the end of April there will be a season of programmes on ‘boys’ - looking into the issues and challenges facing young men and their parents in these complex times, presented by Sophia Smith-Galer, Jo Meek, and Catherine Carr.

Following on from her widely acclaimed Intrigue investigation: Million Dollar Lover, Sue Mitchell and former British serviceman, Rob Lawrie, go on the hunt for the migrant kingpin known as the Scorpion – one of the key figures behind the cross channel migrant trade - in a new podcast To Catch A Scorpion.

The award winning Buried team return with a character-driven investigation into a toxic chemical leak in rural Wales, in Buried 2 – The Last Witness.

In the autumn there will be a new triple bill of Charles Dickens, with titles in which the well-loved writer’s critique of Victorian society has particularly striking parallels with life in Britain today. Hard Times, Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend are all given new dramatisations by Graham White, Mike Walker and Dan Rebellato.

Danny Robins and his hugely popular Uncanny podcast, which was made into a TV series for BBC Two last year, will be going stateside with the launch of Uncanny USA.

Following the success of Lady Killers, historian and broadcaster Lucy Worsley launches a spin-off, Lady Swindlers, unearthing the infamous female grifters and con-women from history.

Gabriel Gatehouse and team are back with a second series of their award-winning hit podcast, The Coming Storm, ahead of the US Presidential Election.

Hannah Fry returns with a new series of Uncharted – uncovering the extraordinary stories revealed by the lines on graphs.

There will be a new ten part comedy series with Michael Spicer, called Michael Spicer: No Room, launching this spring.

Fans of Call Jonathan Pie will be delighted to learn he’ll be back for one or two specials that will include the US Election and a new series in 2025.

Mary Beard returns with Being Roman where she brings back to vivid life real individuals from ancient Rome.

Actor Michael Sheen explores the strange art of acting, from classic techniques to the pursuit of Method authenticity in a new 3 part series. He speaks to some of today’s most acclaimed performers about their different approaches to getting into character and delves into the off-stage drama of drama schools.

PS/RB2

BBC Radio 4 announces refreshed schedule this Spring and raft of new commissions (2024)
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