From Mr Bob Shennan
Sir, - Why would anybody mess around with a much-loved radio
programme? Surely something that has lasted in the schedules for
decades, and to which the listeners are so devoted, should be kept
in its traditional slot for ever. So why move Sunday
Half-Hour on Radio 2?
First and foremost, let me say plainly that Radio 2's commitment
to religious broadcasting is undiminished. In fact, I believe that
the recent changes have created a stronger three-hour zone of
programming at a time when more people listen to the radio.
Together with Pause for Thought and our special programmes
at Easter, Christmas, and Faith in the World Week, the new
Sunday Hour and Good Morning Sunday programmes
offer an unrivalled service on UK music radio.
Yet, despite this, I must say that the move of Sunday
Half-Hour has been a very difficult decision. I have been
contacted by people who have emphasised how important the programme
is to them or their relatives.
Although many people have catch-up services such as iPlayer on
their TV, phone, or computer, I do appreciate that not everyone
will have this technology. One of the issues that most trouble me
is the fact that elderly listeners in particular do not always have
access to the internet. My decision has upset some people, and I
regret that. But my responsibility is to everyone who listens, and
everyone who pays their licence fee. It was for that reason that I
felt I had to make the change.
As the controller of BBC Radio 2, I have to make choices that
affect our listeners daily, and these decisions are not always
easy. They are, however, done honestly and with the best interests
of the station and, ultimately, the audience at heart.
An easier course would have been to do nothing. I appreciate
that many people would prefer this. But I think that to do nothing
might have been very damaging to Sunday Half-Hour in the
long term. The simple truth is that the programme has been in
decline for many years, and the number of people listening has
halved in the past decade.
Some people have written to me to suggest that they consider the
early-morning slot to be an example of our demoting the programme
and marginalising religion. In fact, the slot from 6 to 9 a.m. is
peak listening time in radio, and early Sunday mornings actually
reach a much wider audience than Sunday evenings - more than
The success of Good Morning Sunday shows that there is
an audience with an appetite for faith programming at that time,
and these changes mean that we are able to extend the programme to
a full hour and broadcast it when there are both more people
listening and an expectation of hearing faith-related output.
Some people will not like the changes, but I want to emphasise
that great care was given to considering the implications for our
audience. I have met people from the Christian community to discuss
them recently, and they have fed back to me the views of people who
have expressed concerns. I promise I will remain in close contact
with them and continue to listen.
I would like to reassure listeners that we have no intention of
reneging on our responsibilities or marginalising faith content.
Pease be in no doubt that, for many years to come, The Sunday
Hour will remain a fixture on Radio 2. The change was
necessary to protect the future of the programme; so I hope that
its long-standing fans do feel able to continue listening and
enjoying it at its new time.
BBC Radio 2
99 Great Portland Street
London W1W 7NY
From Canon Hugh Beavan
Sir, - The BBC's claim that moving Sunday Half-Hour
from a Sunday evening to early Sunday morning will attract more
listeners seems difficult to swallow.
As Leigh Hatts said in your issue of 11 January, it looks like
another example of the BBC's "sidelining" of religion, like making
the act of worship on Mondays to Fridays on Radio 4 available only
on long wave.
I wonder how many of your readers will remember that, not so
many years ago, there was a ten-minute epilogue on Radio 4 at 9.50
on a Saturday evening, which, for many of us, was a very helpful
preparation for the eucharist on Sunday. Sometimes this took the
form of sung compline. (When did we last hear compline broadcast on
the BBC, apart from a few snippets in Call the
Those presenting this epilogue included the present Archbishop
of York and the present Bishop of Norwich. But this programme was
axed a long time ago.
The great thing about Sunday Half-Hour is being able to
enjoy hymns, traditional and modern, sung well by choirs drawn from
churches, chapels, and cathedrals from a wide variety of
denominations, and from all four constituent countries of the
It does not worry me that the current presenter is not ordained
January). What matters is that she seems to know her stuff when
it comes to giving background information about the hymns being
sung, and their authors and composers; and that the producers
invariably choose hymns related to the seasons of the Church's
Let us hope that wiser counsels will prevail, and this very
worthwhile programme will be restored to its Sunday-evening slot
19 Wordsworth Road
Colchester CO3 4HR