BBC Radio 4 is a radio station owned and operated by the BBC that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is Gwyneth Williams; and the station is part of BBC Radio and the BBC Radio department. The station is broadcast from the BBC's headquarters at Broadcasting House, London.

It is the second most popular domestic radio station in the UK, broadcast throughout the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands on FM, LW and DAB; and can be received in eastern and south eastern counties of Ireland, the north of France and Northern Europe. It is also available through Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media and on the Internet. Its sister station, BBC Radio 4 Extra (formerly BBC Radio 7), complements the main channel by broadcasting repeats from the Radio 4 archive, extended versions of Radio 4 programmes and supplements to series such as The Archers and Desert Island Discs.

It is notable for its news bulletins and programmes such as Today and The World at One, heralded on air by the Greenwich Time Signal "pips" or the chimes of Big Ben....(Read more)

Links to Peel

During the industrial strictures of 1973, television ceased at around 10.30 p.m., which meant that radio audiences received a boost. Peel's comment on this from 18 December 1973 included a swipe at what he perceived to be Radio Four's anodyne content:

"It's around this time that we collect a whole handful of listeners that we wouldn't normally get if the television was working, and I'd like to tell you that, I'm very very sorry, but there's no television on. (chuckles) I'm very disappointed that you can't watch it, but, seeing as you can't, you can either listen to us, and we don't talk very much but we do play quite a lot of music. Or you can turn over to Radio Four, where they've got a talk on spinach or something like that." [1]

As proof of this, John would often make disparaging comments about the station's long-running panel show Gardener's Question Time: he would conjecture that recordings of their programmes would be kept in perpetuity whereas invaluable session tapes would be wiped and reused. Moreover, in 1988 he related that a listener had sent him a newspaper report concerning a BBC porter who had been shot in the hand by a woman who was incensed at not being able to receive Radio Four properly. His reply to this was less than generous:

"My own reaction, I must admit, would have been the other way, really. I would be more likely to shoot somebody for some of the programmes they put out on Radio Four. Patronising to a fault." [4]

However, Sheila reveals that John had warmer feelings for the station than he would normally let on:

"He had always loved doing things for Radio 4: he saw them as the more traditional side of the BBC, and liked being associated with that at the same time as being on Radio 1. Chris Berthoud from Home Truths told me that John had a peculiar fondness for bringing together these two sides of his professional life; apparently John was delighted whenever his Radio 1 and Radio 4 teams could be united over a long boozy lunch. He always had something of the matchmaker about him." [2]


In 1969, Peel's first venture for the station was to present five episodes of this school series. Even in this structured and educational atmosphere, JP managed to arouse the wrath of the future Education Secretary.

Questions Of Belief

On 23 January 1972, Peel appeared on one edition of this panel show, answering audience questions on religion.


In 1977, Peel appeared in one of these shows, filling a hole in the schedule.

It Makes Me Laugh

From 1980-4, celebrities were invited to deliver a talk illustrated by audio extracts of (supposedly humorous) material on this Sunday lunchtime show. Peel was a guest during the first year of the show's life, and acknowledged that what made him laugh was an acquired taste.

You'll Never Be Sixteen Again

Peel only supplied the introductions to this seven-part series about the culture of the teenager. Originally broadcast on Four in late 1985 but repeated on Radio 1 the following year.

A Good Read

Peel appeared on two editions of this literary review show, no doubt to the fact that he made no secret of his voracious appetite for books.

Down Your Way

A long-running (1946-92) series that visited various locations around the British Isles, interviewed local people and played their choice of music. Peel hosted it twice in 1988: this and his later presentation of Home Truths were taken by some as examples of selling out.

Desert Island Discs

This combination of music and talk shows has been running continuously since 1942, and its format places celebrities in the position of being castaways on a desert island, to which they are only allowed to take eight records. Peel was a regular listener and finally in 1990 a contributor as well [3]: however, as one would expect from a person with such a catholic taste in music, he regretted his choices almost immediately and despite his best efforts was unable to wangle another appearance.

The Archers

Radio Four's longest running serial, a soap opera set in farming country that has been on the air since 1951. Peel was a great fan for many years and achieved an ambition when he appeared on it in 1991. However, he subsequently ceased listening, stating that he preferred the programme when it talked mainly about silage.

From Loon Pants To Safety Pins

In January 1993, Peel appeared among the contributors on a three-part series on the 1970s.

Trouble At The Copper Kettle

In 1994, JP narrated a two part series about the music jukebox.


In 1995, JP worked on a series revolving around the family, and its success led to another with a longer lifespan and wider remit.


Peel appeared on the programme in 1996 talking about his experience on This Is Your Life.

Home Truths

1998-04-04 RT cover Four for 4

Peel was most insistent, when asked to present a successor to the above, that it should not be a celebrity-based show on the lines of Desert Island Discs. Its debut in 1998 was initially met with hostility, but it gradually developed a loyal following, and only lasted just over a year after John's death, such was the stamp his personality had left on it.[4] The programme was part of Radio 4's 'new image' changes, and earned Peel a Radio Times cover as part of the 'Four For 4' feature in April 1998.[5]

History of Pop

A four-part series presented by John Peel with "the definitive history of carbonated water - drinks that have made millions and conquered the world."

The Archive Hour: DJ Culture

An excerpt of Peel's Radio Radio was broadcast on this programme, where Mark Lamarr narrates the story of the DJ.


  1. According to BBC Genome [1], listeners who followed Peel's advice would have heard an edition of the long-running news programme The World Tonight at 10.00, another staple of Radio 4's schedules, A Book At Bedtime, at 10.30, the arts magazine Kaleidoscope at 10.45 and Today In Parliament at 11.15. News and the shipping forecast followed and the station closed down at 11.49.
  2. Margrave Of The Marshes, pp. 358-9 (Bantam Press edition).
  3. This lay unrepeated for over 20 years, but is now readily available from the DID archives.
  4. "Radio 4 to drop Home Truths", Manchester Evening News, 2005-12-14. [2]
  5. "New image for BBC Radio 4", BBC News, 1998-04-04.[3]
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.