For the past few months, a small number of academics has been looking at the online behaviour of listeners and fans of BBC radio.
It’s part of a knowledge-sharing project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
One of the areas of fandom it studied was The Archers, looking mainly at the Archers Addicts fan club, the Archers Appreciation Facebook group and (to the greatest extent) the BBC’s own Archers message board, for which I am the host.
It had some interesting things to say about the conflict – which is certainly there on the BBC’s board – between people who simply want to discuss the characters and storylines in a more or less straightforward way, and those who, in the words of the report, take an “ironic” or “anti-fan” approach.
I’ve posted on the message board in the past about my worries that a very energetic and vocal group who tend to take a negative line can set the tone for the board, discouraging milder users. Indeed the report says that some users are put off by this, and choose to go elsewhere.
But the BBC board – funded by all licence fee payers – should really be a place where everyone can feel they are welcome to post their views. It’s a continuing challenge.
Having said that, I should count my blessings, as overall the discussions on the BBC board are of far higher quality than in many other (non-Archers) online forums.
Here’s a brief summary of the findings, by Lyn Thomas, of London Metropolitan University.