Update: BBC issued the following statement in response to the letter featured in the Observer:
“We’re launching a new Radio 4 film programme later this year which will do even more to explore the expanding universe of cinema and screen. The changing nature of film distribution and availability, including on streaming platforms, has opened up new ways for us to take listeners on a journey through the best of cinematic storytelling.”
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The statement continues, “The new show will explore the contemporary and the historical — digging deep into the relationship between past and present — with close reading and analysis. It will continue to feature serious and in-depth discussion with actors, writers, directors and critics. In addition to the new programme, Radio 4 dedicated arts shows will keep providing news of the latest film releases as well as expanded film criticism, discussion and major interviews with film makers.”
Earlier: More than 100 filmmakers and actors are calling upon the BBC to reverse its decision to ax Radio 4’s “The Film Programme.” In a letter published in the Observer signed by Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Steve McQueen, Ken Loach, Amma Asante, Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Liam Neeson, Benedict Cumberbatch, and many more, they are asking to keep the 17-year-old half-hour show on the air in the face of corporate shake-ups with programming at BBC.
“‘The Film Programme’ has always been an exemplary blend of coverage of current cinema and the film canon and an active champion of independent film. Interested in all roles in film — on screen and off — from the mainstream to more challenging or obscure work that would otherwise be completely ignored by broadcasters,” the letter reads.
While the BBC has not yet made any formal announcement, sources according to the Guardian confirmed the series (which airs on Thursdays) would end.
The letter continues, “Originally presented by Francine Stock and now by Antonia Quirke, its variety and scope reflect a depth of understanding achieved only through a commitment to specialisation. A show that has continually evolved as film has evolved, it would doubtless have continued to do so. To axe such a long-standing and much-loved programme represents an unacceptable diminution of the BBC’s dedication to the continuing story of film, whatever programming is intended to replace it. It is, in our opinion, short-term thinking and a mistake. The Film Programme should be celebrated, not cancelled.”
The letter was put together by independent filmmaker Carol Morley, who started canvassing last week. “’The Film Programme’ is crucial culturally, with two brilliant women presenters,” Morley said. “If it goes, it will leave a massive cultural hole. It isn’t out of date. It isn’t outmoded. It isn’t old-fashioned. It’s completely contemporary.”
Christopher Nolan said in a statement, “As longtime listeners of ‘The Film Programme’ who have enjoyed, learned from and sometimes contributed to the subjects explored, we are very sad to hear this singular forum for the in-depth discussion of all aspects of the movies will be gone.”
Liam Neeson told the Guardian, “The R4 ‘Film Programme’ must be maintained because it helps keep alive and celebrates actual cinema. It goes to obscure little film clubs all over the country, screens being driven by enthusiasts, festivals, retrospectives of all sorts, as well as speaking to film stars, and covers releases big and small. It is a programme about all people in and around and through cinema. Not a programme about ‘movie reviews’ … and the last one left. The axing of this programme would be a nail in the coffin not just for the world of cinema but for the BBC itself.”
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