The Archers’ abuse storyline has year to run, BBC's Tony Hall reveals

Director general talks about Radio 4 soap’s dramatic twist during event addressing threat to corporation’s independence

The long-running storyline involving domestic abuse in The Archers has at least another year to run, having proved to be a powerful hit with listeners to the Radio 4 series.

Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC, told an audience at Bafta’s headquarters in central London on Tuesday night that the story about the abuse of Helen Titchener by her husband, Rob, developed over two and a half years, was something that “only the BBC could do”.

Describing the run-up to Sunday’s stabbing, Hall said he did not know how the story would end but that the programme’s editor, Sean O’Connor, had “thought very carefully about how the story is going to unfold over the next year”.

Hall said: “The much talked-about Archers storyline has brought about an unprecedented public focus on domestic violence in the UK. It’s important that our programmes can tackle difficult issues – and the public seem to agree.”

The BBC audience data shows the rural soap opera has achieved its highest level of listener appreciation. Ratings for Sunday’s transmission are not yet available.

The programme is cited as the reason for a 17% annual increase in calls to the national domestic violence helpline which is run jointly by Women’s Aid and Refuge, the two charities the Archers team has worked with on developing this storyline.

In a wide-ranging conversation with David Puttnam, who is conducting an inquiry into public service television, Hall championed the future of an independent BBC which acts as a “creative hub” for the UK.

He reiterated calls for the industry to be concerned about the growth of foreign-owned companies. “We should be worried about the amount of UK content we are creating … we should be concerned at the decline in the amount of TV production made in this country … the BBC role. We should be the investment arm, if you like: give new talent a chance.”

Hall said the BBC had felt “under attack” at times but he hoped the forthcoming white paper on charter renewal would underline the importance of its independence.

Puttnam said any attack on BBC independence should lead to a march that would make the recent Countryside Alliance march look like “Mickey Mouse”.


Jane Martinson

The GuardianTramp

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