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First 4 Extra shows announced

BBC Radio 4 Extra will feature longer versions of popular comedy programmes The Now Show and The News Quiz when it launches in April.

The station – which is being rebranded from Radio 7 – will also air classic editions of Desert Island Discs which will be introduced and updated by presenter Kirsty Young.

More than 500 episodes of Desert Island Discs will also be made available to listen to on the Radio 4 website – along with the choices of every single castaway who's ever appeared on the programme since its launch in 1942.

Tim Davie, Director of BBC Audio and Music, announced the details today while outlining the BBC's plans for digital radio. He described a range of measures to offer listeners "exclusive, high quality content in a simple way that makes better use of existing programme and station brands," as well as giving details of improved DAB coverage, more ways to listen and a commitment to drive innovation, such as HD Sound.

Digital-only programming on Radio 4 Extra will include The Now Show Extra and The News Quiz Extra, which will be hour-long versions of the shows and will feature behind-the-scenes interviews with the show's writers, producers and guests. A family hour will include quizzes, stories, comedies and interviews and there'll be new dramas to be enjoyed by all ages including The Silver Sword and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Comedy shows such as Arthur Smith's Balham Bash and Sarah Millican's Support Group will air on Radio 4 Extra before transferring to Radio 4.

Announcing the plans, Tim Davie said: "I'm delighted to announce the launch of BBC Radio 4 Extra and hope that fans of Desert Island Discs will indulge themselves in the previously buried treasures of vintage episodes."

Writing on his [link=http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio/2011/03/new_digital_programmes_and_a_new_name_for_radio_7.html]blog[/link], he added: "The vast majority of the programming will remain much-loved archive productions, and we will continue to focus on comedy, drama and entertainment rather than offering news or current affairs. The primary reason for change is not to sell digital radios but to ensure more Radio 4 listeners are aware that we offer more of what they love."

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