An as yet unspecified “technical problem” threw Radio 4 listeners into turmoil last night when the trusted BBC station inexplicably ceased broadcasting for around two minutes.
The period of “dead air” occurred just after 9:30pm, interrupting a shortened repeat of the station’s Midweek programme.
An apology from a Radio 4 announcer finally broke the silence, followed by trails for the station’s arts programming.
As the technical issue persisted and the disruption stretched on, poems – chosen, according to a spokesperson, because they were “not too short, not too long” – were broadcast, interspersed with continued apologies.
After around ten minutes, Midweek was brought back on air – but the chaos did not end there.
As the 10pm start time of The World Tonight bore down, Midweek was faded out mid-sentence, with listeners directed to the BBC’s catch-up service, iPlayer, to hear the remainder of the programme.
During the confusion, social networking site Twitter was abuzz, with at least four users referencing the bizarre occurrence.
“Panic on Radio 4 after a minute of dead air and no programmes to run,” said @RussellPolitico. “Announcer is reading out adverts for iPlayer.”
“Ooh, dead air on Radio 4,” noted Radio Times’s own @gillcrawford, adding the hashtag #peculiarsilence.
“Either my radio is broken, or Radio 4 has died,” tweeted @IanRobinson. “Dead air!” he added.
“Has nuclear war broken out?” responded a panicked @chrisridd.
A spokesperson for Radio 4 said the cause of the problems remained a mystery but indicated that the investigation had been escalated to the station’s network manager.
More on this story, as we get it…