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Archers 'not competing with soaps'

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The Archers' editor Vanessa Whitburn has denied that the drama has been competing with soaps such as EastEnders

The Archers' editor Vanessa Whitburn has denied that the drama has been competing with soaps such as EastEnders

PA

The Archers' editor Vanessa Whitburn has denied that the drama has been competing with soaps such as EastEnders

The Archers' outgoing editor Vanessa Whitburn has denied that the drama has been competing with soaps such as EastEnders for sensational storylines.

Ms Whitburn, the longest serving editor in the show's history, is stepping down at the end of this month after 22 years.

She told the Radio Times that the long-running Radio 4 rural drama, which has faced complaints about "sexed-up" stories, had become less melodramatic during her reign.

"Before my time as editor Grace was burnt to death, Tom Forrest was in court for killing a poacher and there was a diamond smuggler in the village, so we're possibly less melodramatic than we were then," she said.

"I don't think The Archers has to compete with TV soaps. Strong storylines such as Lilian's affair with Paul should be balanced with gentler stories of community life - the fete and the pantomime, or how they're going to raise money to repair the church organ."

Asked by a reader why The Archers, which recently achieved near record audience figures, was not reflecting events in agriculture such as lambs dying in the snow, she said financial constraints were partly to blame.

"The Archers does strong stories - sometimes connected with farming, like Pat and Tony selling the herd, and the Aldridges' mega dairy - sometimes not.

"But it's recorded a month to six weeks in advance. We do try to put in a topical insert if the weather is very severe, for instance. But they are expensive and we are on a budget."

She told the magazine it would be "a delight just to listen" when she has left the show and that she would love to guest star as busybody Lynda Snell.

Ms Whitburn also revealed Jack Woolley would remain a silent character in The Archers, despite the recent death at 87 of Arnold Peters, the actor who played him.