Needless to say, I am a big fan of the both the format and purpose. They are, at once dense yet approachable - attributes that in an ever-increasing world of complexity is useful for non-specialists to fathom the nuances of the deliberated subject. The BBC describes their history and purpose as follows:
The Reith Lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John (later Lord) Reith, the corporation's first director-general.
John Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.
The very first Reith lecturer was the philosopher, Bertrand Russell who spoke on "Authority and the Individual". Among his successors were Arnold Toynbee (The World and the West, 1952), Robert Oppenheimer (Science and the Common Understanding, 1953) and J.K. Galbraith (The New Industrial State, 1966). More recently, the Reith lectures have been delivered by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks (The Persistence of Faith, 1990) and Dr Steve Jones (The Language of the Genes, 1991).
While some will argue that the internet and huge range of similar content now-available has made this redundant, but I'd argue that the exponential the Public Interest is still-served by the mediation and editorial policy of a trusted source. Yes one can still argue about who best serves this role, but I am pleased to benefit from the Beeb's filtering on our behalf. Hope you enjoy them...