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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 14:50 GMT
Potter takes over airwaves
French children
The latest Harry Potter book was launched in France at midnight
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Boxing Day - in its entirety.

JK Rowling's story will be read by comic actor Stephen Fry and broadcast from 1200 GMT until 2000 GMT on the FM frequency.

R4's regular schedule will be broadcast on long wave.

I would like there to be a generation of children in their 20s who will look back and remember listening to the radio on Boxing Day

Helen Boaden, Radio 4 controller
Radio 4 controller Helen Boaden had been in secret negotiations with Rowling's agent Christopher Little, who insisted the book had to be read unabridged and in one go.

Ms Boaden wants to attract younger listeners and is starting a dedicated children's spot next year.

"When I became controller I was determined, if I could, to get Harry Potter on Radio 4," she said.

"I would like there to be a generation of children in their 20s who will look back and remember listening to the radio on Boxing Day, because Harry Potter is part of their imaginative landscape."

She said she was "taken aback" when she was first told the book would have to be broadcast in one chunk.

"But when I was coming back on the 94 bus I thought 'I know how we'll do it.'

Reading Harry Potter books out loud is like swimming in chocolate

Stephen Fry

"I'd be amazed if people listened intently for eight hours. I think there will be people who keep it on all day and dip in, mentally, in and out," she said.

Fry's recording of the book is already commercially available, but Ms Boaden said it was like TV stations showing blockbuster movies which are available on video.

Fry, filming in Seville, Spain, welcomed the news that his Potter reading would be broadcast in full.

"Reading Harry Potter books out loud is more fun than I feel a single human being could ever deserve. It's like swimming in chocolate," he said.

The announcement coincides with news that the book's author, JK Rowling, has just started work on her fifth novel about the teenage wizard.

More than 66 million of her books have been sold around the world in 200 different languages.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling has started work on the fifth Harry Potter
Bloomsbury Publishing's children's sales and marketing head Rosamund de la Hey said Rowling was just getting down to work on the next instalment.

"She is beginning to work on book five after a pretty busy year. She is just getting to grips with it, " Ms de la Hey said.

"She has started writing but we have no idea when it is coming out," she added.

Rowling has said she is planning to write seven novels about Potter.

Her fourth novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released on Tuesday night in France to chaotic scenes in Paris bookshops.

Interest in France in Harry Potter et la Coupe de Feu has been immense, with crowds of children in fancy dress gathering outside bookshops until the book went on sale at midnight.

Film face of Harry: Daniel Radcliffe
Anemome Beres, chief executive of bookseller FNAC Junior, said of the books: "They have all the ingredients - growing up, magic, friends, family."

Work is continuing in the UK on the film of the first Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Ms de la Hey said JK Rowling was "thrilled" with its progress so far.

"She has been in close contact with the director and producer," she added.

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