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A conversation with a reluctant 'replenisher'

I don't work at Radio 4 any more, but I still keep an eye on the Twitter account, so I saw a tweet from a young non-listener yesterday and the ensuing to-and-fro raises some questions about how Radio 4 produces its next generation of listeners:


  1. You get a fair amount of this on Twitter, mixed in with the statements of unalloyed love (which are definitely in the majority). Radio 4 seems to be almost the definition of a polarising brand - although there are, presumably, millions of listeners in the middle ground who can take it or leave it there are also evidently millions for whom it is either an exalted thing or something diabolical. @Leah_FRO is in the latter group - the group for whom Radio 4 produces a visceral, almost allergic reaction. So I retweeted on the @BBCRadio4 account with an 'amusing' addition:

  2. Then, as I guess I kind of half expected, the Radio 4 listeners joined in:

  3. Radio 4 prompts this kind of reaction. Listeners share a sense that they're members of a club - but a profoundly uncool one. They have the kind of fierce pride in their habits that only the slightly self-conscious can have.

  4. Sitting in the car listening to Radio 4 is obviously a pretty popular activity (I did it myself this morning, outside Tesco's). Listeners regularly tweet that they've got stuck in their cars, outside shops and workplaces (sometimes important meetings) listening to the end of a play or a comedy. But for @Leah_FRO it obviously stands for something - for the unbearably smug, middle-aged, tweed-capped version of Radio 4 that we know exists in the minds of many.

    And the big question, of course, for Radio 4 - the very specific
    challenge - is how you alert young listeners to a station that's
    self-evidently the most diverse on the planet (13,000 programmes last year, FFS) and essentially the same as it was when Tony Whitby remade it in 1970.

  5. And among the responses are some from those exposed to the station at a young age:

  6. I'm one of them:
  7. And by the end of this (there were about thirty responses to my original tweet all together) I did feel like we'd all rather ganged up on poor @Leah_FRO but she wasn't budging:

  8. And she had the last word: