Mainstreaming disability on Radio 4
In the autumn of 1997 it was announced that Radio 4's programmes were to be rescheduled and a commitment was given that disability would become a mainstream issue for the network. The new schedule and the mainstreaming initiative were implemented in April 1998. One of the immediate effects of rescheduling was the disappearance of Does He Take Sugar?, the network's weekly programme which presented in-depth treatment of general disability issues. By way of replacement, You and Yours, Radio 4's consumerist programme of longstanding, was given the remit to include regular coverage of disability issues in its content. It was intended that the outcome of these decisions would be that regular coverage of disability would emerge from a niche slot within the network and be positioned within the mainstream of the network's output. On the one hand, the implementation of the proposal to mainstream disability yielded the possibility of an increase in the coverage of disability issues on Radio 4 in an integrated way. On the other hand it could mean a loss of effective and focused treatment of disability issues and a qualitative shift in the nature of coverage. The proposal to mainstream disability issues on Radio 4 thus touched on central issues concerning the treatment of socially disadvantaged groups and the quest for equality. Its implementation took place at a time when the UK disability movement was growing in political power, and disabled people in Britain were becoming aware of the promise of potentially beneficial socio-cultural changes reflected by developments such as the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act CDDA 1995). This thesis examines three aspects of the introduction of the mainstreaming initiative and the early years of its implementation: a) it draws on interviews with key players, conversations with others involved, participant observation reports and documentary evidence to examine the rationale behind the mainstream initiative and, in the light of the decision to drop the network's programme which focussed on general disability issues (Does He Take Sugar?), it examines the decision to retain In Touch, the network's niche programme for blind or visually impaired listeners; b) it presents a quantitative and qualitative comparative analysis of the network's pre and post-mainstreaming treatment of disability issues. This includes analysis of ten editions of Does He Take Sugar? the disability issues covered in You and Yours during the months of September 1998, 1999, 2000 and analysis of the series No Triumph, No Tragedy. presented by a former member of the Does He Take Sugar? team in the summer of 2000.