Despite a below-inflation licence fee settlement, the BBC's flagship speech station BBC Radio 4 is safer now than ever before, according to the former BBC director of radio Matthew Bannister.
Chairing a Radio Academy Q&A session with media lecturer David Hendy — whose history of Radio 4 has just been published — Bannister said he felt the general mood within the BBC was that Radio 4 was not facing a threat to its survival, unlike several other points in its 40-year history.
"The biggest threats to Radio 4 tend to come from within," Bannister said. "My feeling is that Radio 4 is less under threat now than it ever has been."
Hendy (pictured) — a lecturer at the University of Westminster and author of Life On Air: A History of Radio 4 — said that despite talk of "dumbing down" in broadcasting, he believed Radio 4 had in fact become more upmarket in recent years.
"In the past, the future [of Radio 4] has looked bleak and generally speaking it's come out better than people feared," Hendy said. "In 1967, people thought Radio 4 had a few years in it.
"Radio 4 has got tougher. It's gone upmarket. The challenge is always to do that in a way which doesn't stop it from being a mainstream broadcaster. It's not easy."
Radio 4 listeners, Hendy said, were well-known for their attachment to the station and the hundreds of letters that are sent in whenever part of the station line-up is changed. All those things we as listeners have complained about have also been worried about inside," he said.
Life On Air: A History of Radio 4 is published by Oxford University Press, priced £25.