BBC Radio 4 reduces The Archers episodes as part of coronavirus plans

New BBC Broadcasting House in London after BBC has announced cuts to Newsnight, 5Live and other news output, leading to aroun
New BBC Broadcasting House in London after BBC has announced cuts to Newsnight, 5Live and other news output, leading to around 450 job losses.

BBC Radio 4 will broadcast five episodes of The Archers each week, instead of the usual six, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday’s episode will be replaced, and the station will feature a shorter than usual omnibus on Sundays, with the new schedule running until the end of April.

It comes after the editor of the long-running serial, Jeremy Howe, said enough episodes had been recorded to ensure broadcasts “for the weeks ahead”.

The Archers
Jeremy Howe, editor of The Archers (Guy Levy/PA)

BBC Radio 4 made the announcement as part of a wider shift in programming to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Due to the closure of theatres, cinemas and galleries, Saturday Review will not air “for the time being”.

The station has also commissioned a clutch of new series about the pandemic.

Life In Lockdown will share the experience of those around the globe, while Fallout will explore the outbreak’s long-term effects.

Viral Exposure will tackle how coronavirus has exacerbated some nations’ underlying issues, and The Virus Hunters will tell the story of scientists, past and present, and their race to find vaccines and contain outbreaks.

BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health team will also produce a special series called The Virus, offering guidance and documenting the work of the UK’s medical professionals.

And a special edition of The Global Philosopher, with Harvard’s Professor Michael Sandel, will see young people explore the ethical implications of the outbreak.

News programmes Today, World At One, The World Tonight and PM will continue, and there will be special coronavirus editions of More Or Less and Inside Science.

BBC Radio 4 will also begin airing its archive of shows, including A History Of The World In 100 Objects, In Our Time and The Reunion, as well as comedy and drama.

Nicholas Parsons dies
Nicholas and Annie Parsons (Ian West/PA)

In tribute to Nicholas Parsons, who died in January, the station will air classic episodes of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and Just A Minute.

His widow, Annie Parsons, said: “I know that in difficult times laughter can be such a tonic. Nicholas knew that and really devoted his whole life to making people feel uplifted.

“I am certain he would be delighted to think that his shows were helping to keep the nation’s spirits up.

“As a supporter of The Silver Line, the service set up to offer friendship and advice to older people, he would know how important it is to think of all those feeling lonely – especially the elderly – at this uncertain time.”

BBC Radio 4 controller Mohit Bakaya said: “Like the rest of the BBC, we know we have a special role to play at a time of national need.

“For our many loyal listeners, Radio 4 is vital to their daily lives – providing information, analysis and escape.

“That privilege and responsibility could not be more important to us than it is now.

“The schedule is changing as we respond to the significant challenge we all face, but we will do everything we can to make sure we’re giving listeners information, intellectual stimulation, and even joy, in the way I believe only Radio 4 – with the richness of our archive and schedule – can.”

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