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Hall acknowledges Archers concerns

BBC director-general Tony Hall has acknowledged disquiet over The Archers, saying that he hopes that the rural soap does not "lose what is precious".

The long-running Radio 4 soap has been criticised by some fans following the arrival of its new editor, Sean O'Connor, whose previous credits include EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Footballers' Wives.

Some of its listeners, including former Home Secretary David Blunkett, have been left unimpressed by new storylines and plots in the fictional town of Ambridge.

Lord Hall acknowledged the criticism in an interview with Radio Times magazine.

"The Archers matters. It is an extraordinary drama," he told the magazine.

"I realise this because I live with some Archers devotees, I know how people feel about The Archers and I hope (Radio 4 controller) Gwyneth (Williams) and the team will be thinking about what is happening and making sure that we don't lose what is precious," he said.

O'Connor, who has also worked as a theatre director and enjoyed a stint on the Radio 4 drama in the late 1990s, took over from Vanessa Whitburn in 2013, after she stepped down following 22 years in charge .

Storylines to have raised eyebrows among formerly loyal fans included Roy Tucker having an affair with Elizabeth Pargetter , whose husband was killed off a few years ago.

O'Connor previously denied sexing up the ''everyday story of country folk'' with the pair's tryst, telling The Daily Telegraph: "They have only had sex twice. That's hardly sexing up."

Last year Mr Blunkett emerged as one of the most high-profile critics of The Archers, saying that the soap he had listened to since he was four years old now left him "losing the will to live".

"Under new management - new editor, new writers - I fear that The Archers is on the verge of becoming the disappearing soap," the MP said.

"Coronation Street and EastEnders must be rubbing their hands."

"The dominant family in the village of Ambridge is the Archers - or at least they were. For, one by one, the family, by death or disgrace, and finally the threat of a new road, have found themselves dismissed from the plot," he added.

His comments came as Tom Graham, the actor who voiced Tom Archer was "deposed" after 17 years in the role.

Fans called the decision ''nonsensical'', and ''very sad news''.

BBC broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire tweeted earlier this month: "Woah just listened to The Archers for first time. Reminded me of a posh edition of Jeremy Kyle !!!!!!"

Figures released last year showed that The Archers had been the most popular podcast of the past decade, with editions of the show having been downloaded almost 74 million times.

A spokeswoman for Radio 4 said: " As Tony Hall says, The Archers is an extraordinary drama and, alongside other long-running shows, evolves with the times.

"We always listen to our audiences and the importance of The Archers is very much recognised by the team behind the show as well as the millions of listeners who tune in each week."

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