A bunch of griping exiles, calling from different parts of France, wanted to know if James Boyle would get rid of cricket on Radio 4 long-wave. They live in hope, out there in Bordeaux or wherever.
James Boyle, the former head of BBC Radio in Scotland, now Radio 4 supremo, was in at the crease on the Today programme. Naughtie and MacGregor were being nice to him, in that way you are with a new boss, and Boyle was being nice to the listeners. He explained to the people in France, as they cut into their breakfast brioche, that there was a problem with frequencies. He said there were fewer and fewer frequencies (if he had said less and less, several hundred listeners would have started digging into the Basildon Bond with their fountain pens), but that the research on the subject was pretty old. It was done in 1994, which seems recent enough to me, but new bosses love to get research under way.
Jocelyn Haye, who represents The Voice of the Listener, asked, in a very roundabout way, if Boyle was going to chase after listeners by going downmarket. Another listener, and you sensed an old grudge here, wondered if he would take off new programmes before they'd had a decent chance - as he had in Scotland. Then there was the usual question about why there isn't more for children on Radio 4.
Boyle played them all with a straight bat (look, I'm only keeping this sustained metaphor going because this is about Radio 4, home of the sustained metaphor: (As the snows of winter recede, will the fragile shoots of democracy be seen again?'). But he gave the children's radio enquirer a bit of a whack.
I don't know what it is about some adults and children's radio. They come over all misty-eyed with nostalgia about Toy Town. Could they not find Radio Luxembourg? Good Lord, even Garner Ted Armstrong, Radio Luxembourg's Voice of God, was preferable to listening to the awful bleatings of Larry the Lamb.
Boyle pointed out that children liked to listen to Radio 1. He's absolutely right. We might like to think of them all lying on their stomachs in front of the fire, waving their …