More than a thousand people have now signed a petition deploring the axing of Sunday Half Hour by BBC Radio 2. The popular thirty minute programme featuring hymns was suddenly removed from the Sunday evening schedule a month ago. Its replacement is an hour long programme at 6am on Sunday.
Many protestors are criticising this early hour as being the worst aspect of the snap change.
Listener Paul Bright speaks for many when he says that he cannot believe how insensitive the BBC can be to the traditional audience of a well-loved programme.
"Do they not realise how many older people, who may be house-bound or living in care homes or may be unable to attend a place of worship, especially during the dark winter evenings or may feel unsafe going out at night, look forward to listening to the singing of well-loved hymns, introduced by a sympathetic presenter and with the added joy of knowing that their relatives or friends are, at exactly the same time, also enjoying the same programme?" He adds: "These are not the people who will be up at 6am."
The change appears to have affected people of all ages. Louise Baynes says: "I'm 23 and I love this programme. Please don't move it to 6am. You will lose many listeners."
Lucy Morrissey highlights fears about the marginalisation of Christianity: "There is little enough religious broadcasting as it is - please retain this interesting half hour. 6am is an impossible time for the elderly who cannot get to church during the day."
Sunday Half Hour has been broadcast weekly since 1940 and was once a live transmission from a different church each week. The BBC had already cut costs by playing recorded hymns.
Other signatories include clergy such as former Archdeacon of Liverpool Bob Metcalf who asks: "Does the BBC, in its wisdom, not realise that, although numbers listening to Sunday Half Hour might appear to be low, many of them are people who do not have access to a computer, nor perhaps the expertise to us one in order to go to the iPlayer?"
Canon Peter Davies from Worcester claims that pastorally the BBC's proposal is "highly misguided".
A significant number of couples have signed the petition having enjoyed the programme together with their families for many years.
Gerald Ryalls is not the only disappointed listener to wonder if even the successor programme is due for the chop.
"Early morning is very inconvenient," he observes but adds: "Is the move the first stage of removing one of the last Christian programmes?"
Leigh Hatts, author of London's 100 Best Churches, who launched the petition stresses: "This number of online signatures is impressive since many people do not have access to a computer and most will not have been aware of the opportunity to protest.
"The petition remains online as BBC Radio 2 Controller Bob Shennan has said that he will continue to listen to opinion."
The Save Sunday Half Hour petition is available to view and sign at www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-sunday-half-hour
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