Desert Island Discs ‘greatest radio show of all time’

Lauren Laverne and Wendy Cope

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Poet Wendy Cope (right) was host Lauren Laverne’s desert island castaway last month

Desert Island Discs has been named the greatest radio programme of all time by a panel of industry experts.

The BBC Radio 4 show, which since 1942 has been inviting famous guests to share their favourite musical choices, beat drama The Archers to the top spot.

Other choices in the Radio Times poll included Wake Up To Wogan, John Peel and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Many of the 30 programmes on the list are no longer broadcast, with almost a third being comedies or panel shows.

‘Genius format’

Desert Island Discs is currently presented by Lauren Laverne, who is filling in while Kirsty Young is being treated for fibromyalgia.

The programme invites high-profile guests to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury item to take with them as they are castaway on a mythical desert island.

Top five greatest radio programmes

  1. Desert Island Discs
  2. The Archers – the UK’s longest running radio drama.
  3. Radio comedy Round The Horne (1965-8)
  4. Hancock’s Half Hour (1954-9)
  5. In The Psychiatrist’s Chair (1982-2001)

Source: Radio Times poll

Prime ministers and industry leaders have all been castaways, with notable recent guests having included Sir David Attenborough, JK Rowling, Yoko Ono and David Beckham.

Desert Island Discs producer Cathy Drysdale said the accolade was “wonderful”, attributing it to an “absolute genius format”.

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Yoko Ono appeared on the programme in 2007. She chose records both by her late husband John Lennon and son Sean

Radio Times editor Mark Frith said the “poll illustrates how memorable and timeless great radio can be”.

The list was compiled by 46 industry experts, of which 42 had a professional connection to the BBC.

Terry Wogan’s BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, which ran for more than 25 years until 2009, was in 12th position, just ahead of John Peel’s late-night BBC Radio 1 programme, on air between 1967 and 2004.

What is Desert Island Discs?

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Presenter Kirsty Young quizzed footballer David Beckham for the programme’s 75th anniversary in 2017

  • A famous guest is cast away on a fictional desert island each week
  • They can choose eight songs, a book and a luxury item to take with them
  • They are always given two items – the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible
  • Guests have to choose one record they would save if a storm hit the desert island
  • Four presenters have hosted the show since it started in 1942 – Roy Plomley (who originally devised the programme), Sir Michael Parkinson, Sue Lawley and Kirsty Young, who took over presenting duties in 2006
  • Desert Island Discs has an on-air audience of about 2.8 million
  • Its first-ever castaway was actor and comedian Vic Oliver, whose first music selection was pianist Alfred Cortot playing Chopin