Can we do something to save a science radio show?

14 November 2012 by Akshat Rathi, posted in Campaign

BBC East radio is getting rid of the Naked Scientists and replacing it with country music. You can stop that

In one hour, the Naked Scientists, an award-winning radio show on BBC East, gives its listeners an insightful and entertaining look into the scientific world.  From January, though, it will not be aired on BBC's local radio anymore for what it seems are feeble reasons.

If the decision is not reversed, BBC's local radio will lose a decade-old radio show. And it won't just affect those in the east of England but its large online audience too. Every month, for instance, its podcast is downloaded nearly 500,000 times globally.

Chris Smith, of Cambridge University, has lead an excellent team that creates this popular show. Although the BBC do not pay to produce this show, the show is able to do brilliant stories because of the BBC's facilities. One example is that of BBC's numerous studios spread across Britain. The radio producers can use this to interview scientists sitting in a BBC studio far away and still maintain the high quality audio needed for such a show.

Worse still, the reasons to cancel the show seem to make little sense. First, Mick Rawsthorne, the head of local and regional programs for BBC East, who decides on the show's fate, believes that the science program has no value for the local audience. This despite the fact that Cambridgeshire has a large scientific community that includes universities, industries and scholarly publishing houses.

Second, Mr Rawsthorne believes that science should make it to radio but in the form of reporting on local developments. In that he misses the point that science, beyond its educational value, holds people's attention because it is fascinating. Not because it is newsworthy.

Third, and this is the worst, the one-hour show will most probably be replaced by American country music.

I believe that it is not only possible to save the Naked Scientists but perhaps show to the BBC that it is a radio show does not have just regional value, but national and international value too.

Within Britain there are two strong examples where the scientific community's push has brought about a real change. One is the ongoing libel reform campaign headed by Sense about Science, a charity. The other is the Science is Vital campaign which began as a 154-word blog post and helped spare cuts to Britain's science budget.

So what can you do?

You can email BBC at feedback@bbc.co.uk or mick.rawsthorne@bbc.co.uk to let him know your opinion. Your voices will be heard. For instance, because a few emails it was featured on BBC's feedback program. You can also participate in the online conversation happening on Twitter (#savethenakedscientists) and Facebook.

Disclosure: I have worked with Chris Smith when I was at Chemistry World. He is a wonderful guy, but I would have written this plea regardless.

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