22 Oct 2007

That figures: BBC and Open University co-production More or Less returns with a new presenter

New presenter Tim Harford

New presenter Tim Harford

As increasing amounts of headlines bombard us with statistics and figures, the BBC and Open University co-production of More or Less makes a welcome return to BBC Radio 4, un-picking the numbers that are used in our everyday life. Whether it’s your current account interest rate, the odds on being a victim of crime or the average length of time you’ll be waiting for an operation, numbers bombard us at every turn. More or Less is essential listening for anyone who is keen to understand what facts lay behind the figures.

The programme returns for a six-week series at 4.30pm on Monday 29 October. Economist Tim Harford joins as the new presenter and, as a presenter for the BBC programme ‘Trust me, I’m an economist’, he is a trusted and respected voice in the world of numbers. Tim said: “I have a fond belief that economics can actually solve everyday problems. I hope to show through More or Less that the same thing is true of numbers and statistics."

The ruling language of public life – the language of numbers – is often overlooked. Money, statistics, targets, risk, economics, measurements – we are swamped with numbers constantly, but despite their proliferation in our everyday lives, figures are not something that we generally reflect on.

Dr Kevin McConway, The Open University’s head academic on the programme, said: “Our society runs on numbers. Yet most of us sometimes have difficulty in getting to grips with what the numbers are telling us. For instance, is £10 million a big amount of money? Well, if miraculously my pay went up by £10 million a year, it would change my life completely. On that basis, it’s a huge sum of money. But suppose the Government has to put up taxes by a total of £10 million a year to pay for some worthy cause. Shared out among the whole population of the UK, that’s about 17p per person. I probably lose that much down the back of the sofa in a year. In this context, £10 million is peanuts. It all depends on the context, and More or Less can help you understand the contexts and make sense of the numbers in our lives.”

In the past series, the lively magazine programme investigated house prices, examined the whole approach to measuring poverty, reported on drug testing and examined the research on child behaviour. The new series is set to be just as relevant and revealing, as the programme focuses on the current news agenda and topical issues in the public arena.

This year, for the first time, there will be podcasts of the programme available to download from the BBC website. Further features aligned to the programme will be on Open2.net, the online learning portal from The Open University and the BBC.

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