The Essay Radio 3 Archive

Freakonomics Radio is an award-winning weekly podcast (subscribe here! and learn how to listen here! ) with 8 million downloads per month. It can also be heard on public radio stations across the country, on SiriusXM, on several major airlines, and elsewhere. Host Stephen J. Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt. Freakonomics Radio is produced by Dubner Productions and WNYC Studios.

EPISODEDATELENGTH
323Here’s Why All Your Projects Are Always Late — and What to Do About It
Whether it’s a giant infrastructure plan or a humble kitchen renovation, it’ll inevitably take way too long and cost way too much. That’s because you suffer from “the planning fallacy.” (You also have an “optimism bias” and a bad case of overconfidence.) But don’t worry: we’ve got the solution.
3/8/1841:09
322Extra: David Rubenstein Full Interview
Stephen Dubner’s conversation with David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, one of the most storied private-equity firms in history. We spoke with Rubenstein for the Freakonomics Radio series “The Secret Life of a C.E.O.”
3/4/181:30:36
REBROADCAST: Does “Early Education” Come Way Too Late?
The gist: in our collective zeal to reform schools and close the achievement gap, we may have lost sight of where most learning really happens — at home.
3/1/1846:29
321Extra: Richard Branson Full Interview
Stephen Dubner’s conversation with the Virgin Group founder, recorded for the Freakonomics Radio series “The Secret Life of a C.E.O.”
2/26/1855:13
320Letting Go
If you’re a C.E.O., there are a lot of ways to leave your job, from abrupt firing to carefully planned succession (which may still go spectacularly wrong). In this final episode of our “Secret Life of a C.E.O.” series, we hear those stories and many more. Also: what happens when you no longer have a corner office to go to — and how will you spend all that money?
2/22/1845:00
319After the Glass Ceiling, a Glass Cliff
Only 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Why? Research shows that female executives are more likely to be put in charge of firms that are already in crisis. Are they being set up to fail? (Part 5 of a special series, “The Secret Life of C.E.O.’s.”)
2/15/1852:18
318It’s Your Problem Now
No, it’s not your fault the economy crashed. Or that consumer preferences changed. Or that new technologies have blown apart your business model. But if you’re the C.E.O., it is your problem. So what are you going to do about it? First-hand stories of disaster (and triumph) from Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, Satya Nadella, Jack Welch, Ellen Pao, Richard Branson, and more. (Part 4 of a special series, “The Secret Life of C.E.O.’s.”)
2/8/1844:00
317What Can Uber Teach Us About the Gender Pay Gap?
The gig economy offers the ultimate flexibility to set your own hours. That’s why economists thought it would help eliminate the gender pay gap. A new study, using data from over a million Uber drivers, finds the story isn’t so simple.
2/6/1842:27
316“I Wasn’t Stupid Enough to Say This Could Be Done Overnight”
Indra Nooyi became C.E.O. of PepsiCo just in time for a global financial meltdown. She also had a portfolio full of junk food just as the world decided that junk food is borderline toxic. Here’s the story of how she overhauled that portfolio, stared down activist investors, and learned to “leave the crown in the garage.” (Part 3 of a special series, “The Secret Life of C.E.O.’s.”)
2/1/1847:57
315How to Become a C.E.O.
Mark Zuckerberg’s dentist dad was an early adopter of digital x-rays. Jack Welch blew the roof off a factory. Carol Bartz was a Wisconsin farm girl who got into computers. No two C.E.O.’s have the same origin story — so we tell them all! How the leaders of Facebook, G.E., Yahoo!, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Virgin, the Carlyle Group, Reddit, and Bridgewater Associates made it to the top. (Part 2 of a special series, “The Secret Life of C.E.O.’s.”)
1/25/1844:16
314What Does a C.E.O. Actually Do?
They’re paid a fortune — but for what, exactly? What makes a good C.E.O. — and how can you even tell? Is “leadership science” a real thing — or just airport-bookstore mumbo jumbo? We put these questions to Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Indra Nooyi, Satya Nadella, Jack Welch, Ray Dalio, Carol Bartz, David Rubenstein, and Ellen Pao. (Part 1 of a special series, “The Secret Life of C.E.O.’s.”)
1/18/1838:31
313How to Be a Modern Democrat — and Win
Gina Raimondo, the governor of tiny Rhode Island, has taken on unions, boosted big business, and made friends with Republicans. She is also one of just 15 Democratic governors in the country. Would there be more of them if there were more like her?
1/11/1838:09
REBROADCAST: Why Is My Life So Hard?
Most of us feel we face more headwinds and obstacles than everyone else — which breeds resentment. We also undervalue the tailwinds that help us — which leaves us ungrateful and unhappy. How can we avoid this trap?
1/4/1830:08
REBROADCAST: Trust Me
Societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier. In the U.S. (and the U.K. and elsewhere), social trust has been falling for decades — in part because our populations are more diverse. What can we do to fix it?
12/28/1729:57
REBROADCAST: Make Me a Match
Sure, markets generally work well. But for some transactions — like school admissions and organ transplants — money alone can’t solve the problem. That’s when you need a market-design wizard like Al Roth.
12/21/1752:49
312Not Your Grandmother’s I.M.F.
The International Monetary Fund has long been the “lender of last resort” for economies in crisis. Christine Lagarde, who runs the institution, would like to prevent those crises from ever happening. She tells us her plans.
12/14/1738:18
311Why Is the Live-Event Ticket Market So Screwed Up?
The public has almost no chance to buy good tickets to the best events. Ticket brokers, meanwhile, make huge profits on the secondary markets. Here’s the story of how this market got so dysfunctional, how it can be fixed – and why it probably won’t be.
12/7/1748:22
310Are We Running Out of Ideas?
Economists have a hard time explaining why productivity growth has been shrinking. One theory: true innovation has gotten much harder – and much more expensive. So what should we do next?
11/30/1737:04
UPDATE: Is America Ready for a “No-Lose Lottery”?
Most people don’t enjoy the simple, boring act of putting money in a savings account. But we do love to play the lottery. So what if you combine the two, creating a new kind of savings account with a lottery payout?
11/23/1745:13
309Nurses to the Rescue!
They are the most-trusted profession in America (and with good reason). They are critical to patient outcomes (especially in primary care). Could the growing army of nurse practitioners be an answer to the doctor shortage? The data say yes but — big surprise — doctors’ associations say no.
11/16/1757:43
308How Can I Do the Most Social Good With $100? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions
Dubner and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt answer your questions about crime, traffic, real-estate agents, the Ph.D. glut, and how to not get eaten by a bear.
11/9/1743:24
307Thinking Is Expensive. Who’s Supposed to Pay for It?
Corporations and rich people donate billions to their favorite think tanks and foundations. Should we be grateful for their generosity — or suspicious of their motives?
11/2/1738:49
306How to Launch a Behavior-Change Revolution
Academic studies are nice, and so are Nobel Prizes. But to truly prove the value of a new idea, you have to unleash it to the masses. That’s what a dream team of social scientists is doing — and we sat in as they drew up their game plan.
10/26/1744:40
305The Demonization of Gluten
Celiac disease is thought to affect roughly one percent of the population. The good news: it can be treated by quitting gluten. The bad news: many celiac patients haven’t been diagnosed. The weird news: millions of people without celiac disease have quit gluten – which may be a big mistake.
10/19/1743:55
304What Are the Secrets of the German Economy — and Should We Steal Them?
Smart government policies, good industrial relations, and high-end products have helped German manufacturing beat back the threats of globalization.
10/12/1757:03
REBROADCAST: Time to Take Back the Toilet
Public bathrooms are noisy, poorly designed, and often nonexistent. What to do?
10/5/1731:45
303Why Larry Summers Is the Economist Everyone Hates to Love
He’s been U.S. Treasury Secretary, a chief economist for the Obama White House and the World Bank, and president of Harvard. He’s one of the most brilliant economists of his generation (and perhaps the most irascible). And he thinks the Trump Administration is wrong on just about everything.
9/28/1750:29
302Why Learn Esperanto?
A language invented in the 19th century, and meant to be universal, it never really caught on. So why does a group of Esperantists from around the world gather once a year to celebrate their bond?
9/26/1731:49
301What Would Be the Best Universal Language? (Earth 2.0 Series)
We explore votes for English, Indonesian, and … Esperanto! The search for a common language goes back millennia, but so much still gets lost in translation. Will technology finally solve that?
9/21/1741:04
300Why Don’t We All Speak the Same Language? (Earth 2.0 Series)
There are 7,000 languages spoken on Earth. What are the costs — and benefits — of our modern-day Tower of Babel?
9/14/1743:04
299“How Much Brain Damage Do I Have?”
John Urschel was the only player in the N.F.L. simultaneously getting a math Ph.D. at M.I.T. But after a new study came out linking football to brain damage, he abruptly retired. Here’s the inside story — and a look at how we make decisions in the face of risk versus uncertainty.
9/7/1747:04
REBROADCAST: Bad Medicine, Part 3: Death by Diagnosis
By some estimates, medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. How can that be? And what’s to be done? Our third and final episode in this series offers some encouraging answers.
8/31/1747:20
REBROADCAST: Bad Medicine, Part 2: (Drug) Trials and Tribulations
How do so many ineffective and even dangerous drugs make it to market? One reason is that clinical trials are often run on “dream patients” who aren’t representative of a larger population. On the other hand, sometimes the only thing worse than being excluded from a drug trial is being included.
8/24/1745:35
REBROADCAST: Bad Medicine, Part 1: The Story of 98.6
We tend to think of medicine as a science, but for most of human history it has been scientific-ish at best. In the first episode of a three-part series, we look at the grotesque mistakes produced by centuries of trial-and-error, and ask whether the new era of evidence-based medicine is the solution.
8/17/1744:02
REBROADCAST: What Are You Waiting For?
Standing in line represents a particularly sloppy — and frustrating — way for supply and demand to meet. Why haven’t we found a better way to get what we want? Is it possible that we secretly enjoy waiting in line? And might it even be (gulp) good for us?
8/10/1736:19
298Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask)
The bad news: roughly 70 percent of Americans are financially illiterate. The good news: all the important stuff can fit on one index card. Here’s how to become your own financial superhero.
8/3/1743:59
297The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money
It’s hard enough to save for a house, tuition, or retirement. So why are we willing to pay big fees for subpar investment returns? Enter the low-cost index fund. The revolution will not be monetized.
7/27/1748:00
296These Shoes Are Killing Me!
The human foot is an evolutionary masterpiece, far more functional than we give it credit for. So why do we encase it in “a coffin” (as one foot scholar calls it) that stymies so much of its ability — and may create more problems than it solves?
7/20/1739:14
295When Helping Hurts
Good intentions are nice, but with so many resources poured into social programs, wouldn’t it be even nicer to know what actually works?
7/13/1751:25
294The Fracking Boom, a Baby Boom, and the Retreat From Marriage
Over 40 percent of U.S. births are to unmarried mothers, and the numbers are especially high among the less-educated. Why? One argument is that the decline in good manufacturing jobs led to a decline in “marriageable” men. Surely the fracking boom reversed that trend, right?
7/6/1743:54
REBROADCAST: The Harvard President Will See You Now
How a pain-in-the-neck girl from rural Virginia came to run the most powerful university in the world.
6/29/1739:18
293Why Hate the Koch Brothers? (Part 2)
Charles Koch, the mega-billionaire CEO of Koch Industries and half of the infamous political machine, sees himself as a classical liberal. So why do most Democrats hate him so much? In a rare series of interviews, he explains his political awakening, his management philosophy and why he supports legislation that goes against his self-interest.
6/23/1738:58
292Why Hate the Koch Brothers? (Part 1)
Charles Koch, the mega-billionaire CEO of Koch Industries and half of the infamous political machine, sees himself as a classical liberal. So why do most Democrats hate him so much? In a rare series of interviews, he explains his political awakening, his management philosophy and why he supports legislation that goes against his self-interest.
6/22/1743:18
291Evolution, Accelerated
A breakthrough in genetic technology has given humans more power than ever to change nature. It could help eliminate hunger and disease; it could also lead to the sort of dystopia we used to only read about in sci-fi novels. So what happens next?
6/15/1735:40
290He’s One of the Most Famous Political Operatives in America. America Just Doesn’t Know It Yet.
Steve Hilton was the man behind David Cameron’s push to remake British politics. Things didn’t work out so well there. Now he’s trying to launch a new political revolution — from sunny California.
6/8/1742:16
289How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns?
Nearly two percent of America is grassy green. Sure, lawns are beautiful and useful and they smell great. But are the costs — financial, environmental and otherwise — worth the benefits?
6/1/1727:59
288Are the Rich Really Less Generous Than the Poor?
A series of academic studies suggest that the wealthy are, to put it bluntly, selfish jerks. It’s an easy narrative to swallow — but is it true? A trio of economists set out to test the theory. All it took was a Dutch postal worker’s uniform, some envelopes stuffed with cash, and a slight sense of the absurd.
5/25/1743:55
287Hoopers! Hoopers! Hoopers!
As CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer was famous for over-the-top enthusiasm. Now he’s brought that same passion to the N.B.A. — and to a pet project called USAFacts, which performs a sort of fiscal colonoscopy on the American government.
5/18/1739:21
286How Big is My Penis? (And Other Things We Ask Google)
On the Internet, people say all kinds of things they’d never say aloud — about sex and race, about their true wants and fears. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has spent years parsing the data. His conclusion: our online searches are the reflection of our true selves. In the real world, everybody lies.
5/11/1734:01
REBROADCAST: Food + Science = Victory!
A kitchen wizard and a nutrition detective talk about the perfect hamburger, getting the most out of garlic, and why you should use vodka in just about everything.
5/4/1736:43
285There’s A War On Sugar. Is It Justified?
Some people argue that sugar should be regulated, like alcohol and tobacco, on the grounds that it’s addictive and toxic. How much sense does that make? We hear from a regulatory advocate, an evidence-based skeptic, a former FDA commissioner — and the organizers of Milktoberfest.
4/27/1745:36
284Is Income Inequality Inevitable? (Earth 2.0 Series)
In pursuit of a more perfect economy, we discuss the future of work; the toxic remnants of colonization; and whether giving everyone a basic income would be genius — or maybe the worst idea ever.
4/20/1740:54
283What Would Our Economy Look Like? (Earth 2.0 Series)
If we could reboot the planet and create new systems and institutions from scratch, would they be any better than what we’ve blundered our way into through trial and error? This is the first of a series of episodes that we’ll release over several months. We start with — what else? — economics. You’ll hear from Nobel laureate Angus Deaton, the poverty-fighting superhero Jeff Sachs; and many others.
4/13/1742:50
282Could Solving This One Problem Solve All the Others?
The biggest problem with humanity is humans themselves. Too often, we make choices — what we eat, how we spend our money and time — that undermine our well-being. An all-star team of academic researchers thinks it has the solution: perfecting the science of behavior change. Will it work?
4/6/1735:21
281Big Returns from Thinking Small
By day, two leaders of Britain’s famous Nudge Unit use behavioral tricks to make better government policy. By night, they repurpose those tricks to improve their personal lives. They want to help you do the same.
3/30/1730:44
REBROADCAST: How Safe is Your Job?
Economists preach the gospel of “creative destruction,” whereby new industries — and jobs — replace the old ones. But has creative destruction become too destructive?
3/23/1733:17
280Why Is My Life So Hard?
Most of us feel we face more headwinds and obstacles than everyone else — which breeds resentment. We also undervalue the tailwinds that help us — which leaves us ungrateful and unhappy. How can we avoid this trap?
3/16/1730:29
279Chuck E. Cheese’s: Where a Kid Can Learn Price Theory
The pizza-and-gaming emporium prides itself on affordability, which means its arcade games are really cheap to play. Does that lead to kids hogging the best games — and parents starting those infamous YouTube brawls?
3/9/1731:22
278The Taboo Trifecta
Serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal loves to talk about the bodily functions that make most people flinch. That’s why she’s building a business around the three P’s: periods, pee, and poop.
3/2/1732:06
277No Hollywood Ending for the Visual-Effects Industry
In their chase for a global audience, American movie studios spend billions to make their films look amazing. But almost none of those dollars stay in America. What would it take to bring those jobs back — and would it be worth it?
2/23/1755:41
276Professor Hendryx vs. Big Coal
What happens when a public-health researcher deep in coal country argues that mountaintop mining endangers the entire community? Hint: it doesn’t go very well.
2/16/1737:04
REBROADCAST: How to Get More Grit in Your Life
The psychologist Angela Duckworth argues that a person’s level of stick-to-itiveness is directly related to their level of success. No big surprise there. But grit, she says, isn’t something you’re born with — it can be learned. Here’s how.
2/9/1742:11
275An Egghead’s Guide to the Super Bowl
We assembled a panel of smart dudes—a two-time Super Bowl champ; a couple of NFL linemen, including one who’s getting a math Ph.D at MIT, and our resident economist—to tell you what to watch for, whether you’re a football fanatic or a total newbie.
2/2/1728:25
274Did China Eat America’s Jobs?
For years, economists promised that global free trade would be mostly win-win. Now they admit the pace of change has been “traumatic.” This has already led to a political insurrection — so what’s next?
1/26/1738:21
273Is the American Dream Really Dead?
Just a few decades ago, more than 90 percent of 30-year-olds earned more than their parents had earned at the same age. Now it’s only about 50 percent. What happened — and what can be done about it?
1/19/1739:26
272Trevor Noah Has a Lot to Say
The Daily Show host grew up as a poor, mixed-race South African kid going to three churches every Sunday. So he has a sui generis view of America — especially on race, politics, and religion — and he’s not afraid to speak his mind.
1/12/1735:19
271The Men Who Started a Thinking Revolution
Starting in the late 1960s, the Israeli psychologists Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman began to redefine how the human mind actually works. Michael Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project explains how the movement they started — now known as behavioral economics — has had such a profound effect on academia, governments, and society at large.
1/05/1735:07
REBROADCAST: How to Become Great at Just About Anything
What if the thing we call “talent” is grotesquely overrated? And what if deliberate practice is the secret to excellence? Those are the claims of the research psychologist Anders Ericsson, who has been studying the science of expertise for decades. He tells us everything he’s learned.
12/29/1650:07
REBROADCAST: How to Be More Productive
In this busy time of year, we could all use some tips on how to get more done in less time. First, however, a warning: there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive.
12/22/1639:20
270Bad Medicine, Part 3: Death by Diagnosis
By some estimates, medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. How can that be? And what’s to be done? Our third and final episode in this series offers some encouraging answers.
12/15/1648:30
269Bad Medicine, Part 2: (Drug) Trials and Tribulations
How do so many ineffective and even dangerous drugs make it to market? One reason is that clinical trials are often run on “dream patients” who aren’t representative of a larger population. On the other hand, sometimes the only thing worse than being excluded from a drug trial is being included.
12/8/1645:18
268Bad Medicine, Part 1: The Story of 98.6
We tend to think of medicine as a science, but for most of human history it has been scientific-ish at best. In the first episode of a three-part series, we look at the grotesque mistakes produced by centuries of trial-and-error, and ask whether the new era of evidence-based medicine is the solution.
12/1/1644:55
REBROADCAST: The No-Tipping Point
The restaurant business model is warped: kitchen wages are too low to hire cooks, while diners are put in charge of paying the waitstaff. So what happens if you eliminate tipping, raise menu prices, and redistribute the wealth? New York restaurant maverick Danny Meyer is about to find out.
11/24/1644:26
267How to Make a Bad Decision
Some of our most important decisions are shaped by something as random as the order in which we make them. The gambler’s fallacy, as it’s known, affects loan officers, federal judges — and probably you too. How to avoid it? The first step is to admit just how fallible we all are.
11/17/1635:41
266Trust Me
Societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier. In the U.S. (and the U.K. and elsewhere), social trust has been falling for decades — in part because our populations are more diverse. What can we do to fix it?
11/10/1627:42
265The White House Gets Into the Nudge Business
A tiny behavioral-sciences startup is trying to improve the way federal agencies do their work. Considering the size (and habits) of most federal agencies, this isn’t so simple. But after a series of early victories — and a helpful executive order from President Obama — they are well on their way.
11/3/1642:14
264In Praise of Incrementalism
What do Renaissance painting, civil-rights movements, and Olympic cycling have in common? In each case, huge breakthroughs came from taking tiny steps. In a world where everyone is looking for the next moonshot, we shouldn’t ignore the power of incrementalism.
10/27/1648:29
263In Praise of Maintenance
Has our culture’s obsession with innovation led us to neglect the fact that things also need to be taken care of?
10/20/1641:41
262This Is Your Brain on Podcasts
Neuroscientists still have a great deal to learn about the human brain. One recent MRI study sheds some light, finding that a certain kind of storytelling stimulates enormous activity across broad swaths of the brain. The takeaway is obvious: you should be listening to even more podcasts.
10/13/1645:19
REBROADCAST: How To Win A Nobel Prize
The gist: the Nobel selection process is famously secretive (and conducted in Swedish!) but we pry the lid off, at least a little bit.
10/6/1644:32
261Why Are We Still Using Cash?
It facilitates crime, bribery, and tax evasion – and yet some governments (including ours) are printing more cash than ever. Other countries, meanwhile, are ditching cash entirely. And if Star Trek is right, we won’t have money of any sort in the 24th century.
9/29/1642:59
260Has the U.S. Presidency Become a Dictatorship?
Sure, we all pay lip service to the Madisonian system of checks and balances. But as one legal scholar argues, presidents have been running roughshod over the system for decades. The result? An accumulation of power that’s turned the presidency into a position the Founders wouldn’t have recognized.
9/22/1647:43
259Ten Signs You Might Be a Libertarian
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, likes to say that most Americans are libertarians but don’t know it yet. So why can’t Libertarians (and other third parties) gain more political traction?
9/15/1650:38
258Why Uber Is an Economist’s Dream
To you, it’s just a ride-sharing app that gets you where you’re going. But to an economist, Uber is a massive repository of moment-by-moment data that is helping answer some of the field’s most elusive questions.
9/8/1639:47
257The Future (Probably) Isn’t as Scary as You Think
Internet pioneer Kevin Kelly tries to predict the future by identifying what’s truly inevitable. How worried should we be? Yes, robots will probably take your job — but the future will still be pretty great.
9/1/1634:58
REBROADCAST: Are You Ready for a Glorious Sunset?
The gist: we spend billions on end-of-life healthcare that doesn’t do much good. So what if a patient could forego the standard treatment and get a cash rebate instead?
8/25/1637:46
REBROADCAST: Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush
The comedian, actor — and now, author — answers our FREAK-quently Asked Questions.
8/18/1631:25
256 What Are You Waiting For?
Standing in line represents a particularly sloppy — and frustrating — way for supply and demand to meet. Why haven’t we found a better way to get what we want? Is it possible that we secretly enjoy waiting in line? And might it even be (gulp) good for us?
8/11/1635:53
REBROADCAST: Is It Okay for Restaurants to Racially Profile Their Employees?
We seem to have decided that ethnic food tastes better when it’s served by people of that ethnicity (or at least something close). Does this make sense — and is it legal?
8/4/1651:55
255 Ten Ideas to Make Politics Less Rotten
We Americans may love our democracy — at least in theory — but at the moment our feelings toward the Federal government lie somewhere between disdain and hatred. Which electoral and political ideas should be killed off to make way for a saner system?
7/28/1644:48
254 What Are Gender Barriers Made Of?
Overt discrimination in the labor markets may be on the wane, but women are still subtly penalized by all sorts of societal conventions. How can those penalties be removed without burning down the house?
7/21/1636:29
253 Is the Internet Being Ruined?
It’s a remarkable ecosystem that allows each of us to exercise control over our lives. But how much control do we truly have? How many of our decisions are really being made by Google and Facebook and Apple? And, perhaps most importantly: is the Internet’s true potential being squandered?
7/14/1647:54
252 Confessions of a Pothole Politician
Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, has big ambitions but knows he must first master the small stuff. He’s also a polymath who relies heavily on data and new technologies. Could this be what modern politics is supposed to look like?
7/7/1643:44
REBROADCAST: The Suicide Paradox
There are more than twice as many suicides as murders in the U.S., but suicide attracts far less scrutiny. Freakonomics Radio digs through the numbers and finds all kinds of surprises.
6/30/1657:22
REBROADCAST: How Much Does the President Really Matter?
The U.S. president is often called the “leader of free world.” But if you ask an economist or a Constitutional scholar how much the occupant of the Oval Office matters, they won’t say much. We look at what the data have to say about measuring leadership, and its impact on the economy and the country.
6/23/1632:25
REBROADCAST: Why Do We Really Follow the News?
There are all kinds of civics-class answers to that question. But how true are they? Could it be that we like to read about war, politics, and miscellaneous heartbreak simply because it’s (gasp) entertaining?
6/16/1635:46
251Are We in a Mattress-Store Bubble?
You’ve seen them — everywhere! — and often clustered together, as if central planners across America decided that what every city really needs is a Mattress District. There are now dozens of online rivals too. Why are there so many stores selling something we buy so rarely?
6/9/1634:37
250 Why Does Everyone Hate Flying? And Other Questions Only a Pilot Can Answer
Patrick Smith, the author of Cockpit Confidential, answers every question we can throw at him about what really happens up in the air. Just don’t get him started on pilotless planes — or whether the autopilot is actually doing the flying.
6/2/1643:42
249 The Longest Long Shot
When the uncelebrated Leicester City Football Club won the English Premier League, it wasn’t just the biggest underdog story in recent history. It was a sign of changing economics — and that other impossible, wonderful events might be lurking just around the corner.
5/25/1642:59
248 How to Be Tim Ferriss
Our Self-Improvement Month concludes with a man whose entire life and career are one big pile of self-improvement. Nutrition? Check. Bizarre physical activities? Check. Working less and earning more? Check. Tim Ferriss, creator of the Four-Hour universe, may at first glance look like a charlatan, but it seems more likely that he’s a wizard — and the kind of self-improvement ally we all want on our side.
5/19/1641:28
247 How to Win Games and Beat People
Games are as old as civilization itself, and some people think they have huge social value regardless of whether you win or lose. Tom Whipple is not one of those people. That’s why he consulted an army of preposterously overqualified experts to find the secret to winning any game.
5/12/1652:26
246How to Get More Grit in Your Life
The psychologist Angela Duckworth argues that a person’s level of stick-to-itiveness is directly related to their level of success. No big surprise there. But grit, she says, isn’t something you’re born with — it can be learned. Here’s how.
5/4/1644:25
245Being Malcolm Gladwell
“Books are a pain in the ass,” says Gladwell, who has written some of the most popular, influential, and beloved non-fiction books in recent history. In this wide-ranging and candid conversation, he describes other pains in the ass — as well as his passions, his limits, and why he’ll never take up golf.
5/1/1628:18
244 How to Become Great at Just About Anything
What if the thing we call “talent” is grotesquely overrated? And what if deliberate practice is the secret to excellence? Those are the claims of the research psychologist Anders Ericsson, who has been studying the science of expertise for decades. He tells us everything he’s learned.
4/28/1651:51
243How to Be More Productive
It’s Self-Improvement Month at Freakonomics Radio. We begin with a topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind: how to get more done in less time. First, however, a warning: there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive.
4/21/1638:34
242 Is the World Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income?
A lot of full-time jobs in the modern economy simply don’t pay a living wage. And even those jobs may be obliterated by new technologies. What’s to be done so that financially vulnerable people aren’t just crushed? It may finally be time for an idea that economists have promoted for decades: a guaranteed basic income.
4/14/1636:40
241 Are Payday Loans Really as Evil as People Say?
Critics — including President Obama — say short-term, high-interest loans are predatory, trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt. But some economists see them as a useful financial instrument for people who need them. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau promotes new regulation, we ask: who’s right?
4/7/1649:36
REBROADCAST: The Economics of Sleep, Part 2
People who sleep better earn more money. Now all we have to do is teach everyone to sleep better.
3/31/1642:47
REBROADCAST: The Economics of Sleep, Part 1
Could a lack of sleep help explain why some people get much sicker than others?
3/24/1645:37
240Yes, the American Economy Is in a Funk — But Not for the Reasons You Think
As sexy as the digital revolution may be, it can’t compare to the Second Industrial Revolution (electricity! the gas engine! antibiotics!), which created the biggest standard-of-living boost in U.S. history. The only problem, argues the economist Robert Gordon, is that the Second Industrial Revolution was a one-time event. So what happens next?
3/17/1633:29
239 The No-Tipping Point
The restaurant business model is warped: kitchen wages are too low to hire cooks, while diners are put in charge of paying the waitstaff. So what happens if you eliminate tipping, raise menu prices, and redistribute the wealth? New York restaurant maverick Danny Meyer is about to find out.
3/10/1643:14
238The United States of Cory Booker
The junior U.S. Senator from New Jersey thinks bipartisanship is right around the corner. Is he just an idealistic newbie or does he see a way forward that everyone else has missed?
3/3/1639:18
237 Ask Not What Your Podcast Can Do for You
Now and again, Freakonomics Radio puts hat in hand and asks listeners to donate to the public-radio station that produces the show. Why on earth should anyone pay good money for something that can be had for free? Here are a few reasons.
2/25/1641:39
236How Can This Possibly Be True?
A famous economics essay features a pencil (yes, a pencil) arguing that “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.” Is the pencil just bragging? In any case, what can the pencil teach us about our global interdependence — and the proper role of government in the economy?
2/18/1640:48
235 Who Needs Handwriting?
The digital age is making pen and paper seem obsolete. But what are we giving up if we give up on handwriting?
2/11/1639:33
REBROADCAST: How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps
Okay, maybe the steps aren’t so easy. But a program run out of a Toronto housing project has had great success in turning around kids who were headed for trouble.
2/4/1629:13
REBROADCAST: Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?
If U.S. schoolteachers are indeed “just a little bit below average,” it’s not really their fault. So what should be done about it?
1/28/1636:36
234Do Boycotts Work?
The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the South African divestment campaign, Chick-fil-A! Almost anyone can launch a boycott, and the media loves to cover them. But do boycotts actually produce the change they’re fighting for?
1/21/1637:23
233How to Be Less Terrible at Predicting the Future
Experts and pundits are notoriously bad at forecasting, in part because they aren’t punished for bad predictions. Also, they tend to be deeply unscientific. The psychologist Philip Tetlock is finally turning prediction into a science — and now even you could become a superforecaster.
1/14/1646:52
232The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap
Discrimination can’t explain why women earn so much less than men. If only it were that easy.
1/7/1643:23
REBROADCAST: When Willpower Isn’t Enough
Sure, we all want to make good personal decisions, but it doesn’t always work out. That’s where “temptation bundling” comes in.
12/31/1541:56
REBROADCAST: Fixing the World, Bang-for-the-Buck Edition
A team of economists has been running the numbers on the U.N.’s development goals. They have a different view of how those billions of dollars should be spent.
12/24/1530:59
231Is Migration a Basic Human Right?
The argument for open borders is compelling — and deeply problematic.
12/17/151:00:53
230The Cheeseburger Diet
One woman’s quest to find the best burger in town can teach all of us to eat smarter.
12/10/1532:04
229Ben Bernanke Gives Himself a Grade
He was handed the keys to the global economy just as it started heading off a cliff. Fortunately, he’d seen this movie before.
12/3/1549:58
REBROADCAST: Why Do People Keep Having Children?
Even a brutal natural disaster doesn’t diminish our appetite for procreating. This surely means we’re heading toward massive overpopulation, right? Probably not.
11/26/1540:00
228Does “Early Education” Come Way Too Late?
In our collective zeal to reform schools and close the achievement gap, we may have lost sight of where most learning really happens — at home.
11/19/1545:33
227Should Everyone Be in a Rock Band?
Lessons from Tom Petty’s rise and another rocker’s fall.
11/12/1545:28
226Food + Science = Victory!
On the menu: A kitchen wizard and a nutrition detective talk about the perfect hamburger, getting the most out of garlic, and why you should use vodka in just about everything.
11/5/1538:20
225Am I Boring You?
Researchers are trying to figure out who gets bored — and why — and what it means for ourselves and the economy. But maybe there’s an upside to boredom?
10/29/1539:29
REBROADCAST: How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying
Doctors, chefs, and other experts are much more likely than the rest of us to buy store-brand products. What do they know that we don’t?
10/22/1536:27
224How To Win A Nobel Prize
The process is famously secretive (and conducted in Swedish!) but we pry the lid off at least a little bit.
10/15/1545:27
223Should Kids Pay Back Their Parents for Raising Them?
When one athlete turned pro, his mom asked him for $1 million. Our modern sensibilities tell us she doesn’t have a case. But should she?
10/8/1547:22
222Meet the Woman Who Said Women Can’t Have It All
Anne-Marie Slaughter was best known for her adamant views on Syria when she accidentally became a poster girl for modern feminism. As it turns out, she can be pretty adamant in that realm as well.
10/1/1542:11
221How Did the Belt Win?
Suspenders may work better, but the dork factor is too high. How did an organ-squeezing belly tourniquet become part of our everyday wardrobe — and what other suboptimal solutions do we routinely put up with?
9/24/1530:56
220“I Don’t Know What You’ve Done With My Husband But He’s a Changed Man”
From domestic abusers to former child soldiers, there is increasing evidence that behavioral therapy can turn them around.
9/17/1545:53
219Preventing Crime for Pennies on the Dollar
Conventional programs tend to be expensive, onerous, and ineffective. Could something as simple (and cheap) as cognitive behavioral therapy do the trick?
9/10/1541:33
218The Harvard President Will See You Now
How a pain-in-the-neck girl from rural Virginia came to run the most powerful university in the world.
9/3/1538:49
217Are You Ready for a Glorious Sunset?
We spend billions on end-of-life healthcare that doesn’t do much good. So what if a patient could forego the standard treatment and get a cash rebate instead?
8/27/1536:55
216How to Make a Smart TV Ad
Step 1: Hire a Harvard psych professor as the pitchman. Step 2: Have him help write the script …
8/20/1530:35
REBROADCAST: The Dangers of Safety
What do NASCAR drivers, Glenn Beck and the hit men of the NFL have in common?
8/12/1530:57
215Why Do We Really Follow the News?
There are all kinds of civics-class answers to that question. But how true are they? Could it be that we like to read about war, politics, and miscellaneous heartbreak simply because it’s (gasp) entertaining?
8/5/1535:51
214How to Create Suspense
Why is soccer the best sport? How has Harlan Coben sold 70 million books? And why does “Apollo 13” keep you enthralled even when you know the ending?
7/29/1539:20
213Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush
The comedian, actor — and now, author — answers our FREAK-quently Asked Questions
7/23/1532:00
212The Economics of Sleep, Part 2
People who sleep better earn more money. Now all we have to do is teach everyone to sleep better.
7/16/1543:25
211The Economics of Sleep, Part 1
Could a lack of sleep help explain why some people get much sicker than others?
7/9/1544:56
REBROADCAST: A Better Way to Eat
Takeru Kobayashi revolutionized the sport of competitive eating. What can the rest of us learn from his breakthrough?
7/1/1528:04
210Is It Okay for Restaurants to Racially Profile Their Employees?
We seem to have decided that ethnic food tastes better when it’s served by people of that ethnicity (or at least something close). Does this make sense — and is it legal?
6/25/1552:39
209Make Me a Match
Sure, markets generally work well. But for some transactions — like school admissions and organ transplants — money alone can’t solve the problem. That’s when you need a market-design wizard like Al Roth.
6/18/1550:23
208 Making Sex Offenders Pay — and Pay and Pay and Pay
Sure, sex crimes are horrific, and the perpetrators deserve to be punished harshly. But society keeps exacting costs — out-of-pocket and otherwise — long after the prison sentence has been served.
6/11/1535:29
207Should We Really Behave Like Economists Say We Do?
One man’s attempt to remake his life in the mold of homo economicus.
6/4/1554:48
REBROADCAST: Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
The debut of a live game show from Freakonomics Radio, with judges Malcolm Gladwell, Ana Gasteyer, and David Paterson.
5/28/151:02:56
REBROADCAST: Failure Is Your Friend
In which we argue that failure should not only be tolerated but celebrated.
5/21/1531:48
206Ten Years of Freakonomics
Dubner and Levitt are live onstage at the 92nd Street Y in New York to celebrate their new book “When to Rob a Bank” — and a decade of working together.
5/14/1546:02
205Could the Next Brooklyn Be … Las Vegas?!
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has a wild vision and the dollars to try to make it real. But it still might be the biggest gamble in town.
5/7/1555:17
REBROADCAST: Think Like a Child
When it comes to generating ideas and asking questions it can be really fruitful to have the mentality of an eight year old.
4/29/1529:44
204Nate Silver Says: “Everyone Is Kind of Weird”
America’s favorite statistical guru answers our FREAK-quently Asked Questions, and more.
4/23/1539:38
203 Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor’s Best Friend
It may seem like winning a valuable diamond is an unalloyed victory. It’s not. It’s not even clear that a diamond is so valuable.
4/16/1540:29
202How Many Doctors Does It Take to Start a Healthcare Revolution?The practice of medicine has been subsumed by the business of medicine. This is great news for healthcare shareholders — and bad news for pretty much everyone else.4/9/1553:56
201How Do We Know What Really Works in Healthcare?
A lot of the conventional wisdom in medicine is nothing more than hunch or wishful thinking. A new breed of data detectives is hoping to change that.
4/2/1541:53
REBROADCAST: The Perfect Crime
If you are driving and kill a pedestrian, there’s a good chance you’ll barely be punished. Why?
3/26/1529:35
REBROADCAST: What You Don’t Know About Online Dating
Thick markets, thin markets, and the triumph of attributes over compatibility.
3/19/1540:11
200 When Willpower Isn’t Enough
Sure, we all want to make good personal decisions, but it doesn’t always work out. That’s where “temptation bundling” comes in.
3/12/1533:11
199This Idea Must Die
Every year, Edge.org asks its salon of big thinkers to answer one big question. This year’s question borders on heresy: what scientific idea is ready for retirement?
3/5/1554:33
198The Maddest Men of All
Advertisers have always been adept at manipulating our emotions. Now they’re using behavioral economics to get even better.
2/26/1532:52
197Hacking the World Bank
Jim Yong Kim has an unorthodox background for a World Bank president — and his reign thus far is just as unorthodox.
2/19/1536:33
196Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism?
The White House is hosting an anti-terror summit next week. Summits being what they are, we try to offer some useful advice.
2/12/1542:48
195How Efficient Is Energy Efficiency?
It’s a centerpiece of U.S. climate policy and a sacred cow among environmentalists. Does it work?
2/05/1532:36
194How Safe Is Your Job?
Economists preach the gospel of “creative destruction,” whereby new industries — and jobs — replace the old ones. But has creative destruction become too destructive?
1/29/1533:36
193 Someone Else’s Acid Trip
As Kevin Kelly tells it, the hippie revolution and the computer revolution are nearly one and the same.
1/22/1529:31
192That’s a Great Question!
Verbal tic or strategic rejoinder? Whatever the case: it’s rare to come across an interview these days where at least one question isn’t a “great” one.
1/15/1525:42
191Why Doesn’t Everyone Get the Flu Vaccine?
Influenza kills, but you’d never know it by how few of us get the vaccine.
1/8/1536:16
REBROADCAST: What’s the “Best” Exercise?
Most people blame lack of time for being out of shape. So maybe the solution is to exercise more efficiently.
1/1/1515:20
REBROADCAST: What’s More Dangerous: Marijuana or Alcohol?
Imagine that both substances were undiscovered until today. How would we think about their relative risks?
12/25/1426:39
190Time to Take Back the Toilet
Public bathrooms are noisy, poorly designed, and often nonexistent. What to do?
12/18/1435:48
REBROADCAST: The Troubled Cremation of Stevie the Cat
We spend billions on our pets, and one of the fastest-growing costs is pet “aftercare.” But are those cremated remains you got back really from your pet?
12/11/1445:59
189How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps
Okay, maybe the steps aren’t so easy. But a program run out of a Toronto housing project has had great success in turning around kids who were headed for trouble.
12/4/1429:35
188Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?
If U.S. schoolteachers are indeed “just a little bit below average,” it’s not really their fault. So what should be done about it?
11/27/1428:13
187The Man Who Would Be Everything
Boris Johnson — mayor of London, biographer of Churchill, cheese-box painter and tennis-racket collector — answers our FREAK-quently Asked Questions.
11/20/1428:13
186Why Do People Keep Having Children?
Even a brutal natural disaster doesn’t diminish our appetite for procreating. This surely means we’re heading toward massive overpopulation, right? Probably not.
11/13/1439:30
185Should the U.S. Merge With Mexico?
Corporations around the world are consolidating like never before. If it’s good enough for companies, why not countries? Welcome to Amexico!
11/6/1457:36
184 What Can Vampires Teach Us About Economics?
A lot! “The Economics of the Undead” is a book about dating strategy, job creation, and whether there should be a legal market for blood.
10/30/1426:00
183Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
The debut of a live game show from Freakonomics Radio, with judges Malcolm Gladwell, Ana Gasteyer, and David Paterson.
10/23/141:03:30
182How Can Tiny Norway Afford to Buy So Many Teslas?
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REBROADCAST: How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten

BBC Radio 3 is a British radio station operated by the BBC. Its output centres on classical music and opera, but jazz, world music, drama, culture and the arts also feature.[1] The station is the world's most significant commissioner of new music,[2][3] and through its New Generation Artists scheme promotes young musicians of all nationalities.[4] The station broadcasts the BBC Proms concerts, live and in full, each summer in addition to performances by the BBC Orchestras and Singers. There are regular productions of both classic plays and newly commissioned drama.

Radio 3 won the Sony Radio Academy UK Station of the Year Gold Award for 2009[5] and was nominated again in 2011.[6]

History[edit]

Radio 3 is the successor station to the BBC Third Programme which began broadcasting on 29 September 1946.[7] The name Radio 3 was adopted on 30 September 1967 when the BBC launched its first pop music station, Radio 1[8]:247 and rebranded its national radio channels as Radio 1, Radio 2 (formerly the Light Programme), Radio 3, and Radio 4 (formerly the Home Service).

Radio 3 was the overall label applied to the collection of services which had until then gone under the umbrella title of the Third Network, namely:

  • the Third Programme proper (as launched in 1946, an evenings-only offering of demanding cultural fare, both musical and spoken)
  • the Music Programme (a daytime service of classical music)
  • sports coverage (chiefly on Saturday afternoons) and adult educational programming in the early part of weekday evenings (known as Network Three).

All these strands, including the Third Programme, kept their separate identities within Radio 3 until 4 April 1970, when there was a further reorganisation following the introduction of the structural changes which had been outlined the previous year in the BBC document Broadcasting in the Seventies.

Broadcasting in the Seventies[edit]

On 10 July 1969 the BBC published its plans for radio and television in a policy document entitled Broadcasting in the Seventies. Later described in 2002 by Jenny Abramsky, Head of Radio and Music, as "the most controversial document ever produced by radio",[9] the document outlined each station's target audience and what content should be broadcast on each channel. This concept went against the earlier methods laid out by the BBC's first Director General John Reith and caused controversy at the time, despite laying out the radio structure that is recognisable today.[10]

At the time of the review, Radio 3 faced several problems. An early option to cut costs, required under the proposals, was to reduce the number of networks from four to three, so that Radio 3 would not broadcast during the day and would use the frequencies of either Radio 1 or 2 as the two stations would merge content. However "Day-time serious music would be the casualty" of these proposals and caused some controversy.[8]:249 A further rumour was expressed that Radio 3 could be closed altogether as a strong statistical case existed against the station according to The Guardian.[8]:251 However, the Director-General, Charles Curran, publicly denied this as "quite contradictory to the aim of the BBC, which is to provide a comprehensive radio service".[8]:251 Curran had earlier dismissed any suggestion that Radio 3's small audience was a consideration: "What is decisive is whether there is a worthwhile audience, and I mean by worthwhile an audience which will get an enormous satisfaction out of it."[8]:251

As a result of Broadcasting in the Seventies, factual content, including documentaries and current affairs, were moved to BBC Radio 4 and the separate titled strands were abolished. The document stated that Radio 3 was to have "a larger output of standard classical music" but with "some element in the evening of cultural speech programmes – poetry, plays".[8]:253 Equally, questions were being asked by the poet Peter Porter about whether other spoken content, for example poetry, would remain on the station. These concerns also led to the composer Peter Maxwell Davies and the music critic Edward Greenfield to fear that "people would lose the mix of cultural experiences which expanded intellectual horizons".[11] However, Radio 3 controller Howard Newby reassured these concerns by replying that only the coverage of political and economic affairs would be passed to Radio 4: Radio 3 would keep drama, poetry, and talks by scientists, philosophers and historians.[11]

The Broadcasting in the Seventies report also proposed a large cutback in the number and size of the BBC's orchestras. In September 1969, a distinguished campaign group entitled the Campaign for Better Broadcasting was formed to protest, with the backing of Sir Adrian Boult, Jonathan Miller, Henry Moore and George Melly.[12] The campaign objected to "the dismantling of the Third Programme by cutting down its spoken word content from fourteen hours a week to six" and "segregating programmes into classes".[13] Mention of the campaign even reached debate in the House of Commons.[14]

The 'arts' controllers[edit]

From the launch until 1987, the controllers of Radio 3 showed preferences towards speech and arts programming as opposed to focus on classical music and the Proms. The first controller, Newby, made little contribution to the station, focusing on the transition from the Third programme to Radio 3 and as a result of the Broadcasting in the Seventies report.

The second controller, Stephen Hearst who assumed the role in 1972, was different. As Hearst had previously been head of television arts features[15] his appointment was seen with scepticism among the staff who viewed him as a populariser.[8]:269 According to Hearst when interviewed for Humphrey Carpenter's book, the main rival candidate for controller Martin Esslin, head of Radio Drama, had said to the interviewing panel that audience figures should play no part in the decision making process over programming.[8]:268 Hearst said he responded to the same question about this issue by commenting that as the station was financed by public money it needed to consider the size of its audience – there was a minimum viable figure but this could be increased with "a lively style of broadcasting",[8]:268

Hearst attempted to make the content of the channel more accessible to a wider audience, but his efforts, which included the evening drivetime programme Homeward Bound and Sunday phone-in request programme Your Concert Choice (the former an uninterrupted sequence of musical items identified only at the end of the programme; the latter a resurrection from the old Home Service), were criticised.[8]:289, 296 However, during this time the long running arts discussion programme Critics' Forum was launched[8]:290 as well as themed evenings and programmes of miscellaneous music including Sounds Interesting.[16]

In 1978, Ian McIntyre took over as controller of Radio 3 but quickly faced uncomfortable relationships between departments. At approximately the same time Aubrey Singer became Managing Director of Radio and began to make programming on the station more populist in a drive to retain listeners in face of possible competition from competitors using a "streamed format".[8]:304 An example of this is the replacement of Homeward Bound in 1980 with an extended, presenter-driven programme called Mainly for Pleasure. The same year an internal paper recommended the disbandment of several of the BBC's orchestras and of the Music Division, resulting in low morale and industrial action by musicians that delayed the start of the Proms.[8]:306–307 Senior management was also getting dissatisfied with listening figures leading to the Director-General Alasdair Milne to suggest that presentation style was "too stodgy and old-fashioned".[8]:313

The 'music' controllers[edit]

In 1987 the positions of Controller of Music and Controller of Radio 3 were merged, and with it the operation of the Proms, under the former Music Controller John Drummond. Drummond, like Hearst, believed that the music programmes' presentation was too stiff and formal[8]:326[17] and he therefore encouraged announcers to be more natural and enthusiastic. Repeats of classic drama performances by the likes of John Gielgud and Paul Scofield were also included because, in his view, newer drama was "gloomy and pretentious".[18] He also introduced features and celebrations of the anniversaries of famous figures including William Glock, Michael Tippett and Isaiah Berlin. Drummond also introduced the show Mixing It which targeted the music genres that fell between Radios 1 and 3, often seen as a precursor to the programme Late Junction.

During Drummond's time, Radio 3 also began to experiment with outside broadcasts including an ambitious Berlin Weekend to mark the reunification of Germany in 1990 and a much praised weekend of programming that was broadcast from London and Minneapolis-St Paul – creating broadcasting history by being the first time a whole weekend had been transmitted "live from another continent".[8]:331 However, Drummond complained about the former that "not one single senior person in the BBC had listened to any part of it",[8]:331 reflecting his general feeling that the BBC senior management paid little attention stating: "I can't remember ever having a serious conversation with anyone above me in the BBC about Radio 3 ... I would much rather have had the feeling that they thought it mattered what Radio 3 did."[8]:328–329

Drummond's successor was Nicholas Kenyon, previously chief music critic of The Observer, who took over in February 1992 and was immediately faced with the looming launch date for commercial competitor Classic FM who were, and still remain, Radio 3's biggest rivals. Kenyon, similar to Singer a decade earlier, believed that Radio 3 had to make changes to its presentation before the new station began broadcasting rather than react later.[8]:304, 339 As a result, three senior producers were sent to study classical music stations in the United States[8]:339 and the station hired advertising agents Saatchi & Saatchi to help improve public perception. Kenyon's tenure was to meet with much controversy: in attempts to update the station's presentation, popular announcers Malcolm Ruthven, Peter Barker and Tony Scotland were axed; drama was cut by a quarter resulting in a letter of protest to The Times signed by Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and Fay Weldon among others;[8]:342 two new programmes for drive time, entitled On Air and In Tune, were launched[8]:341 and a new three-hour programme of popular classics on Sunday mornings fronted by Brian Kay was also launched.[8]:342

These moves were defended by Kenyon who argued that the changes were not "some ghastly descent into populism" but were instead to create "access points" for new listeners.[8]:341 However, there was still "widespread disbelief"[8]:357 when it was announced in the summer that a new morning programme would take the 9 pm spot from the revered Composer of the Week and would be presented by a signing from Classic FM – the disc jockey Paul Gambaccini. The criticism, especially once the programme went on air a few weeks later, was so unrelenting that Gambaccini announced the following spring that he would not be renewing his contract with Radio 3.[8]:357

However, Kenyon's controllership was marked by several highly distinguished programming successes. Fairest Isle was an ambitious project from 1995 which marked the 300th anniversary of the death of Henry Purcell with a year-long celebration of British music and the programme Sounding the Century, which ran for two years from 1997, presented a retrospective of 20th-century music. Both won awards.[19] He also introduced a number of well received specialist programmes including children's programme The Music Machine, early music programme Spirit of the Age, jazz showcase Impressions, vocal music programme Voices and the arts programme Night Waves.

BBC Radio 3 began nighttime transmissions in 1996 with the introduction of Through the Night, consisting of radio recordings from members of the European Broadcasting Union and distributed to some of these other stations under the title Euroclassic Notturno.[20] The introduction of 24-hour broadcasting resulted in the introduction of a 22.00 fixed programming point so that if live programme overran, later programming could be cancelled to allow Through the Night to begin promptly.

In 1998, Roger Wright took over as controller of the station. Soon after his appointment some changes were made to showcase a wider variety of music; a new, relaxed, late-night music programme Late Junction featured a wide variety of genres; programmes focusing on jazz and world music were given a higher profile as were programmes presented by Brian Kay, focusing on light music, and Andy Kershaw, whose show was previously dropped by Radio 1. In these changes, Wright believed that, in the case of the former, he was addressing "this feeling people had that they didn't want to put Radio 3 on unless they were going to listen carefully"[21] and in the latter cases that he was "not dumbing down but smarting up" the programmes.[22]

By 2004, Radio 3's programming and services were being recognised by the corporation at large, as seen in the 2003/4 Charter renewal application and the Annual report for the year which reported that Radio 3 had "achieved a record [audience] reach in the first quarter of 2004",[23] and by the government: the Secretary of State's foreword to the government's Green Paper in 2005 made special mention of "the sort of commitment to new talent that has made Radio 3 the largest commissioner of new music in the world" as a model for what the BBC should be about.[24]

By 2008 however, the station faced pressures to increase its audience by making programmes more accessible while loyal listeners began to complain about the tone of these new changes. Presentation was described as "gruesome in tone and level"[25] and global music output was mocked as "street-smart fusions" and "global pop".[26] At the same time RAJAR began to record lower listening figures and decisions on policy were being changed resulting in the children's programme Making Tracks, experimental music programme Mixing It, theatre and film programme Stage and Screen and Brian Kay's Light Programme all being dropped, a reduction in the number of concerts[27][28] and format changes to several other programmes. In spite of the changes, figures still continued to fall.[29]

The mid to late 2000s did however offer new projects undertaken on the station: The Beethoven Experience in June 2005 saw the broadcast of his works broadcast non-stop for six days.[30] A similar project occurred six months later when A Bach Christmas was run for ten days in the lead to Christmas[31] and in February 2007 when a week was similarly given over to the works of Tchaikovsky & Stravinsky, and Schubert in March 2012.[32] As part of the original Beethoven Experience, the BBC trialled its first music downloads over the internet by offering free music downloads of all nine symphonies as played by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda. The stated aim was "to gauge audiences' appetite for music downloads and their preferred content, and will inform the development of the BBC strategy for audio downloads and on demand content".[33] The experiment was wildly successful, attracting 1.4 million downloads but was met with anger from the major classical record labels who considered it unfair competition and "devaluing the perceived value of music".[34] As a result, no further free downloads have been offered, including as part of the BBC iPlayer service, and the BBC Trust has ruled out any classical music podcasts with extracts longer than one minute.

In 2007, Radio 3 also began to experiment with a visual broadcast as well as the audio transmissions. In October 2007, Radio 3 collaborated with English National Opera in presenting a live video stream of a performance of Carmen, "the first time a UK opera house has offered a complete production online"[35] and in September 2008, Radio 3 launched a filmed series of concerts that was available to watch live and on demand for seven days "in high quality vision".[36] This strategy was also introduced to some of the BBC Proms concerts.

By the latter years of the 2000s, Radio 3's prospects were improving. The year 2008/9 saw the introduction of more concerts[37] and other innovations had introduced Radio 3's largest event to a wider audience. The introduction of family orientated concerts to the BBC Proms, which are broadcast live on Radio 3, helped the station to introduce itself to a younger audience. Innovations of this type began in 2008 with the introduction of a concert celebrating the music from the television programme Doctor Who as composed by Murray Gold[38] and was later followed by a further Doctor Who prom in 2010,[39][40] a free family prom in 2009,[41] another free Horrible Histories prom in 2011[42] and a Wallace and Gromit prom in 2012.[43] These particular concerts were introduced by Wright, who became Proms Director in addition to his duties at Radio 3 in October 2007,[44] and many were also televised for broadcast at a later date. The mix in these proms of classical music to combine with music of a classical nature from the programmes was hoped to introduce a much younger audience to the genres catered for by Radio 3.[39]

As of 2014[update] Radio 3 was having to undergo further changes as a result of recent findings from the BBC Trust. In the station's latest service review, carried out in 2010, the Trust recommended the station become more accessible to new audiences, easier to navigate through the different genres and to review the output of the BBC's orchestras and singers.[45] Soon after this verdict, the license fee was capped and the BBC given more services to pay for with the same level of income. As a result, the corporation had to reduce its costs. In the proposal entitled Delivering Quality First, the BBC proposed that Radio 3 contribute by broadcasting 25% fewer live or specially recorded lunchtime concerts and reducing the number of specially recorded evening concerts.[46] The Trust did recognise however that "Radio 3 plays a vital role in the cultural and creative life of the UK"[46] and as a result, the report did agree to reinvest in the Proms,[46] to retain the long dramas found on the station[46] and to continue to broadcast a new concert live each evening.[46]

Operation[edit]

BBC Radio 3 broadcasts from studios inside the 1930s wing of Broadcasting House in central London. However, in addition to these studios, certain programmes and performances are broadcast from other BBC bases including from BBC Cymru Wales' Cardiff headquarters and BBC North's headquarters at MediaCityUK, Salford.[47] The BBC also has recording facilities at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall which can be used to record and broadcast performances at these venues.[48]

BBC Radio 3 is broadcast on the FM band between 90.2 and 92.6 MHz, on DAB Digital Radio, the digital television services Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk TV and Virgin Media Ireland. Radio 3 programmes can be listened to live on the Radio 3 Website through the RadioPlayer and BBC iPlayer services; the iPlayer also allows Radio 3 programmes to be heard for 30 days after broadcast.

On its FM frequencies, the station uses less dynamic range compression of the volume of music than rival station Classic FM. On DAB it uses dynamic range control (DRC) which allows compression to be defined by the user.[49][50][51][52]

The station also uses a BBC-designed pulse code modulation digitisation technique similar to NICAM, which is used for outside broadcasts running through a telephone line. This runs at a sample rate of 14,000 per second per channel.[citation needed] A similar technique was later used for recording at the same rate. In September 2010, for the final week of the Proms broadcasts, the BBC trialled XHQ (Extra High Quality), a live Internet stream transmitted at a rate of 320kbit/s, instead of Radio 3's usual 192kbit/s, using its AAC-LC 'Coyopa' coding technology.[53] This technology was later developed further, and Radio 3 became the first BBC Radio station to broadcast permanently in this High Definition Sound (as it has been termed) format.[54]

Notable programmes[edit]

Choral Evensong[edit]

The Anglican service of sung evening prayer is broadcast weekly on Radio 3 live from cathedrals, university college chapels and churches throughout the UK.[55] On occasion, it broadcasts Choral Vespers from Catholic cathedrals, (such as Westminster Cathedral), Orthodox Vespers, or a recorded service from choral foundations abroad. Choral Evensong is the BBC's longest-running outside broadcast programme, the first edition having been relayed from Westminster Abbey on 7 October 1926.[55] Its 80th anniversary was celebrated, also live from Westminster Abbey, with a service on 11 October 2006.[56]

When Choral Evensong was moved from Radio 4 to Radio 3 with effect from 8 April 1970 and reduced to just one broadcast per month, the BBC received 2,500 letters of complaint, and weekly transmissions were resumed on 1 July.[8]:262–263[57]

In 2007 the live broadcast was switched to Sundays, which again caused protests.[58] The live transmission was returned to Wednesdays in September 2008, with a recorded repeat on Sunday afternoons. Choral Evensong forms part of Radio 3's remit on religious programming though non-religious listeners have campaigned for its retention.[57]

Composer of the Week[edit]

Composer of the Week was launched in the BBC Home Service on 2 August 1943 under its original title of This Week's Composer.[59] From 15 December 1964 the programme became a regular feature in the schedule of the newly established daytime "Third Network" classical music service, the Music Programme (later to be absorbed into Radio 3).[8]:231 The programme was renamed Composer of the Week on 18 January 1988.

Each week, in five daily programmes, the work of a particular composer is studied in detail and illustrated with musical excerpts. Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Handel have all featured once most years,[59] a different aspect of their work being chosen for study each time. However, the programme also covers more 'difficult' or less-widely known composers, with weeks devoted to Rubbra, Medtner, Havergal Brian, Kapralova, and the Minimalists among others. The programme is written and presented by Donald Macleod. On 2 August 2013, in honour of the station's 70th year, listeners were asked to nominate a composer who had never before been featured for a special broadcast at Christmas.[60] The composer listeners chose was Louise Farrenc.[61]

Record Review[edit]

Record Review is a Saturday morning programme (usually airing from 9 am to 12:15 pm) dealing with recent classical music releases, topical issues and interviews. The programme title is a return of Record Review which was broadcast on Network Three occasionally from 1949, then weekly from 1957 presented by John Lade and then from 1981, Paul Vaughan, until 1998. From 1998-2015 it became CD Review,[62] with the format remaining largely the same. Then, from 2 January 2016, its title reverted to Record Review to reflect the diversity of media proliferating (CDs, downloads, streaming, and so forth). It includes the feature Building a Library which surveys and recommends available recordings of specific works. In 2006 Building a Library was attacked as 'elitist' for including such composers as Karl Amadeus Hartmann and Elliott Carter and lesser-known works of great composers, at the expense of well-known mainstream works.[63] However, the charge was rebutted by the programme's producer, Mark Lowther, who said that Radio 3 audiences wanted programmes that challenged and inspired.[64] As of 2016[update] the regular presenter of Record Review is Andrew McGregor.[65]

Jazz Record Requests[edit]

Jazz Record Requests was the first weekly jazz programme on the Third Programme. First presented by the jazz musician Humphrey Lyttelton, the 30-minute programme was launched in December 1964 and is still running. Now an hour long, it is still broadcast on Saturday, usually in the late afternoon. Presenters on Radio 3 have included Steve Race, Peter Clayton, Charles Fox and Geoffrey Smith. Alyn Shipton became the presenter in May 2012.[66]

Pied Piper[edit]

Pied Piper was an iconic children's programme, presented by the 29-year-old early music specialist, David Munrow, it had the sub-title Tales and Music for Younger Listeners[8]:265 and ran from August 1971 until 1976. Lively and varied, it was aimed at the 6–12 age group, though much older children and adults also listened.[8]:266 The programme ran for five series and a total of 655 episodes until it was brought to an end by Munrow's untimely death in May 1976.

Radio 3 Live in Concert[edit]

Radio 3 Live In Concert is a programme, broadcast between 7:30 and 10 pm each weekday evening, with live concerts from various venues around the country. Regular presenters include Nicola Heywood Thomas, Martin Handley and Petroc Trelawny.

The Early Music Show[edit]

The Early Music Show is broadcast at 2 pm each Sunday which presents European music from the time of Bach and earlier. Episodes cover the music itself as well as performers and occasional discussions of musical style. Regular presenters include Lucie Skeaping and Hannah French.

News broadcasts[edit]

BBC Radio 3's remit focuses mainly on music and the arts, and news is a minor part of its output, though the station does provide concise news bulletins throughout the Breakfast programme and also at 1 pm, 5 pm and 6 pm to give listeners the chance to switch to a more news-oriented station should they want more details about a particular news item.[67][68] Following the Delivering Quality First proposals, it was suggested that Radio 3 share bulletins with Radio 4, so that the same bulletins would be broadcast on both channels.[46] During weekdays the 1 pm, 5 pm and 6 pm news bulletins are read by a member of the Radio 4 presentation team.

As of 2018[update] the Radio 3 Breakfast newsreading team included Viji Alles, Kathy Clugston, Vaughan Savidge, Jill Anderson, Ian Skelly, John Shea, Susan Rae, Paul Guinery.[69][additional citation(s) needed] These newsreaders can be heard on the Breakfast programme and at 1 pm on weekends.

David McNeil, originally from New Zealand, was a foreign correspondent for the BBC for 21 years, based in Beirut, New York, Johannesburg, Jerusalem and Washington. He reported for the BBC from forty-six countries and also presented news programmes on BBC Radio.[70] He was a news presenter on Radio 3 until his retirement on 27 March 2015.[71]

Performing groups[edit]

Main article: BBC Orchestras and Singers

Much of Radio 3's orchestral output is sourced from the BBC's Orchestras and Singers. These groups are:

In addition to the BBC's own orchestras it also has broadcast commitments to the BBC Big Band, which is externally managed, and also broadcasts some works of the Ulster Orchestra, which it part funds.[72]

Controllers[edit]

An author, he published four novels during his time at the Third Programme/Radio 3, winning the first Booker Prize for fiction in 1969. Oversaw the implementation of Broadcasting in the Seventies and an increase in the amount of classical music on Radio 3.[8]:253
Previously head of BBC's television music and arts department, Hearst attempted to make Radio 3 more accessible to a wider audience by introducing drivetime and request programmes as well as themed weekends. Some of these ventures were poorly viewed by critics.[8]:289, 296
Previously controller of Radio 4, McIntyre faced budgetary cuts that closed several orchestras and uncomfortable relations with the Music Division.[8]:302 The possibility of future competition to Radio 3 also resulted in more programmes viewed as populist by critics in an attempt to retain listeners.[8]:304
Previously an administrator for events including the Edinburgh Festival, Drummond introduced repeats of classic drama performances and celebrations of artists anniversaries. His work also included programmes targeting fringe genres and ambitious outside broadcasts.
Kenyon, previously chief music critic of The Observer, made many controversial decisions relating to accessibility to the service in light of the launch of Classic FM including new drive time programmes. However several celebrated programmes and series of programmes were launched and Radio 3 began 24-hour broadcasting.
Wright attempted to ensure that all of the station's musical genres were represented more equitably, and to "smarten up" programmes. While some of these measures were recognised by the BBC and Government, the audience began to decrease, and attempts by Wright to make programmes more accessible were met with complaints from listeners.[73] It was announced in March 2014 that Wright would step down in early September 2014.[74]
Davey became Controller in January 2015, having been chief executive of Arts Council England since 2008.[75][76][77]

Controversy[edit]

Controller Nicholas Kenyon summed up the perennial problem of Radio 3 as "the tension between highbrow culture and popular appeal …the cost of what we do and the number of people who make use of it":[8]:364 elitism versus populism (or 'dumbing down') and the question of cost per listener. This argument has included members of the BBC, listeners and several different protest groups.

In 1969, two hundred members of the BBC staff protested to the director general at changes which would 'emasculate' Radio 3, while managing director of radio Ian Trethowan described the station in a memorandum as "a private playground for elitists to indulge in cerebral masturbation".[8]:255 Later, former Radio 3 controller John Drummond complained that the senior ranks of the BBC took no interest in what he was doing.[78]

In 1995/6 listeners and press critics protested against the introduction into a slot formerly used for Composer of the Week of a programme presented by Paul Gambaccini, a former Radio 1 and Classic FM presenter. This was seen as part of a wider move towards popularisation, to compete with Classic FM and to increase ratings.[8]:357–358 Gambaccini is quoted as saying: "I had a specific mission to invite [Radio 4's] Today listeners to stay with the BBC rather than go to Classic FM."[79]

Several groups were formed to protest against any changes to the station. These have included:

  • The Third Programme Defence Society (1957) opposed cuts in broadcasting hours and the removal of what the BBC considered "too difficult and too highbrow". Supported by TS Eliot, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Laurence Olivier[8]:169–174
  • The Campaign for Better Broadcasting (1969) opposed proposed cuts in Radio 3's speech output. Supported by Sir Adrian Boult, Jonathan Miller, Henry Moore, George Melly.[8]:255–257
  • Friends of Radio 3 (FoR3),[80] a listeners' campaign group set up in 2003 to express concern at changes to the station's style[81] and scheduling, including the shift to presenter-led programmes stripped through the week, as on Classic FM and other commercial music stations. Officially, the BBC stated that "the network's target audience has been redefined and broadened and the schedule began to be recast to move towards this during 1999."[82] The group's stated aim is "To engage with the BBC, to question the policies which depart from Radio 3's remit to deliver a high quality programme of classical music, spoken arts and thought, and to convey listener concerns to BBC management." The group is supported by Dame Gillian Weir, Robin Holloway, Andrew Motion, Dame Margaret Drabble.[83] The BBC has rejected claims that the network has 'dumbed down'.[84]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^"BBC Radio 3". Service Licences. BBC Trust. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  2. ^"British Academy of Composers and Songwriters". Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2008. 
  3. ^"Roger Wright, Controller, Radio 3 and Director, BBC Proms". About the BBC. BBC. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  4. ^"New Generation Artists". BBC. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  5. ^"Sony Radio Academy Awards 2009". Sony Radio Academy. 
  6. ^"Sony Radio Academy Awards 2011". Sony Radio Academy. 
  7. ^"BBC Radio 3 – Sixty Years On". British Broadcasting Corporation. 
  8. ^ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzaaabacadaeafagahaiajakalamHumphrey Carpenter (1996). The Envy of the World: Fifty Years of the BBC Third Programme and Radio 3, 1946-1996. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-81830-4. 
  9. ^"Sound Matters – Soundtrack for the UK – How did we get here?". Text of a lecture given by Jenny Abramsky, News International Visiting Professor of Broadcast Media 2002 at Green College, Oxford University. Retrieved 26 September 2008. 
  10. ^"Gerard Mansell – Obituary". The Telegraph. 27 December 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  11. ^ abRadio Times, 4–10 April 1970, BBC Magazines
  12. ^Briggs (1985), p. 353
  13. ^Briggs (1985), p. 355
  14. ^Stonehouse (16 October 1969). "British Broadcasting Corporation". Hansard. 788: 575–577. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  15. ^Purser, Philip (30 March 2010). "Stephen Hearst obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  16. ^Radio Times, Saturday 1 April 1978, BBC Magazines
  17. ^Drummond (2001), p. 354
  18. ^Drummond (2001), p. 370-371
  19. ^"Knighthood for ex-Proms supremo". BBC News. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  20. ^"Euroclassic Notturno". BBC. Archived from the original on 18 July 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2008. 
  21. ^Thorpe, Vanessa (23 June 2002). "Into bed with Fiona and Verity". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 19 October 2008. 
  22. ^"Roger Wright, The Necessity of Re-invention". Speech given at the Musicians' Benevolent Fund annual luncheon, 21 November 2001, BBC press release. 2001. Retrieved 19 October 2008. 
  23. ^BBC Annual Report 2003/04, p. 34
  24. ^Review of the BBC's Royal Charter: A strong BBC, independent of government, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, March 2005, p. 3
  25. ^"Update on Three". The Spectator. 2004. Archived from the original on 10 January 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  26. ^"The BBC's growing debasement of world music". London: The Independent on Sunday. 28 February 2005
The tercentenary of Henry Purcell's death was marked in 1995 by the award-winning Radio 3 series Fairest Isle
The BBC Radio 3 logo, 2000–2007
The Beethoven Experience: A manuscript page of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
BBC Radio 3's studios are located in Broadcasting House, London.
The first BBC broadcast of Choral Evensong came from Westminster Abbey in 1926

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