Radio 4 theme axed; world doesn’t implode

It takes a brave Radio 4 controller to actually control anything. If you change anything even slightly, you can expect several letters written in green ink to appear in the newspapers. I heard Mark Damazer on the Today programme this morning justifying his decision to — *gasp* — make a change, and I thought it was quite a good justification as well.

I think I’ve listened to the Radio 4 startup once in my life, probably during one insomniac summer’s night. I had to turn over when I heard that awful piece of music. I turned back later only to find some boring programme for farmers. It’s best to wait until 6 if you’re a normal person.

If you’ve never heard it (first of all you’re lucky, second of all you’re probably in the majority because it’s only ever played at 0530), here it is in all its “glory”.

Who would have thought that this frightful medley — called ‘The UK Theme’, which come to think of it fits the tweeness of the ‘piece’ well — of just about every terrible traditional song you can think of would actually have fans?! Radio 4 listeners hate change, and they’ve set up a petition to save it from the axe.

The thing is, though, what if this happened the other way around? What if, for the past thirty-odd years, Radio 4 had an extended news bulletin and a longer shipping forecast at half past five in the morning — replacing useful content with filler music? What on earth would those conservative listeners say if that was replaced with some rubbishy twee box-ticking medley?

In my view, The UK Theme is actually a sign of political correctness gone mad, because just look at all this box-ticking!

  • Greensleeves — tick
  • Londonderry Air — tick
  • Men of Harlech — tick
  • Scotland the Brave — tick

Update: Third Avenue has views as well.


  1. I’ve never heard the early morning medley, but “Sailing By” – the precursor to the 12.48am Shipping Forecast – is a nice tune. Hope that survives the axe.

    And heaven forbid that the Beeb ever increases the length of the early morning SF at the expense of the late night one. I’d be down at Television Centre quicker than you could say ‘German Bight’

    Radio 4 is a touchy subject – I can understand the hoohah.

  2. Stained glass window destryed in church – world doesn’t implode. But it is vandalism nonetheless. The fact that this theme means so much to SOME people (including me) is reason enough to keep it. R4 theme retained – world commits suicide. Hardly.