BBC cuts Message to 20 weeks a year

By Caitlin Pike

The
BBC’s weekly media programme, The Message, is being slashed from 52
programmes a year to just 20 as a result of a scheduling shake-up by
BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer.

The programme, which has
been produced in Manchester for the past seven years, is one of few
dedicated to discussing the British media.

In the new Radio 4
schedule, which starts in January, The Message will share a 1.30pm
Friday slot with Feedback – the BBC’s viewer review programme.

The
Message producer Cecile Wright said: “It’s disappointing that we have
been cut – only a few weeks ago we got record listening figures and the
programme’s popularity has risen.

“I joined The Message three
years ago with a remit to revamp the programme – to give it a kick up
the backside – and I think I’ve done that. There was no consultation on
this decision.”

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed the programme’s run
had been shortened: “The Message is a better fit with Feedback, which
previously sat with A World in Your Ear on Friday at 1.30pm.

The Film Programme will move to The Message’s old slot at 4.30pm on Friday.

It was previously on a Saturday which was a bit late for people who were deciding which film to see over the weekend.”

Regular
contributor to The Message and senior lecturer in journalism at Napier
University, Rob Brown, said: “It’s scandalous the BBC is planning to
scale back its already scant coverage of media matters. The Message is
basically the only show on radio, TV or online that addresses this
force in society. “Surely our public broadcasting service would be
performing a real public service if it started taking the media more
seriously. It would certainly aid the spread of general media literacy,
one of Tessa Jowell’s declared priorities as Culture Secretary.”

Wright
said she also regretted the decision to cut The Message as it is one of
the few programmes produced in Manchester for the network. “The BBC has
said it wants to decentralise from London, but then reduces us to 20
weeks a year – how can the media only be relevant for that period, what
happens to the other 32 weeks?”

● Radio 4 is to have a new, and as yet unnamed, obituaries programme that will begin in February 2006.

The programme will use features, interviews, authored pieces and archived material.

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