chapter  14
4 Pages

Devoted to “Auntie Beeb”

WithSuzanne Levy

BBC Radio is to Britain as Mom and apple pie is to the States. Not lightly is it called "Auntie Beeb". The network closest to people's hearts, perhaps, is BBC's Radio 4, the national speech and arts channel. Unlike radio in the United States, Radio 4 has developed a role at the center of British intellectual life. Radio 4 is perhaps the purest practitioner of the ethos introduced by John Reith, the BBC's first director-general, who maintained that the broadcasting system should give the public what it needs, not necessarily what it wants, "because very few people know what they want and even fewer what they need". "Woman's Hour", the program whose proposed time shift produced such national angst, is a unique show that has evolved with its audience. To American ears, accustomed to FM and talk radio, Radio 4 is a strange creature—slow-paced, slightly stuffy and sometimes unbearably worthy.