BBC Radio 4 is a radio station owned and operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is Gwyneth Williams, and the station is part of BBC Radio and the BBC Radio department. The station is broadcast from the BBC's headquarters at Broadcasting House, London.
It is the second most popular domestic radio station in the UK, broadcast throughout the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands on FM, LW and DAB, and can be received in eastern and south eastern counties of Ireland, the north of France and Northern Europe. It is also available through Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media and on the Internet. Its sister station, BBC Radio 4 Extra (formerly BBC Radio 7), complements the main channel by broadcasting repeats from the Radio 4 archive, extended versions of Radio 4 programmes and supplements to series such as The Archers and Desert Island Discs.
It is notable for its news bulletins and programmes such as Today and The World at One, heralded on air by the Greenwich Time Signal "pips" or the chimes of Big Ben. Radio 4's Shipping Forecast reached 150 years on the air in August 2017. The pips are only accurate on FM, LW & MW as there is a delay on DAB and digital radio of approximately 3 to 5 seconds, even longer online (up to 23 seconds).
BBC Radio 4 is the second most popular British domestic radio station by total hours, after Radio 2 – and the most popular in London and the South of England. It recorded its highest audience, of 11 million listeners, in May 2011 and was "UK Radio Station of the Year" at the 2003, 2004 and 2008 Sony Radio Academy Awards. It also won a Peabody Award in 2002 for File On 4: Export Controls. Costing £71.4 million (2005/6), it is the BBC's most expensive national radio network and is considered by many to be its flagship. There is no comparable British commercial network: Channel 4 abandoned plans to launch its own speech-based digital radio station in October 2008 as part of a £100m cost cutting review.