Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In praise of BBC radio drama

In the Daily Mail, Ray Connolly sings the praises of BBC radio drama.
'In a single afternoon we catch as many listeners as could see the plays on all three stages of the National Theatre if every seat was filled every day for a year,' explains radio drama commissioner Jeremy Howe.

It's a huge audience, and it's all garnered at a bargain basement price. For instance, while an hour of television drama costs between £500,000 and £1million to make, the average budget for radio drama is just £20,000 an hour - that's to pay for everything: writer, actors, studio staff and other costs.

Obviously with its low-key, thoughtful appeal, radio drama isn't a lucrative or glamorous part of broadcasting. But then ideas, stories and the imagination of the audience are the things that are important here.


  1. Radio was also, in its day, a way better writing school than any of the soaps or hospital shows into which new writers are now diverted. A newbie showing a glimmer of originality would be welcomed in and encouraged to be imaginative and ambitious. I give thanks that my first professional steps in the BBC's world were taken with the encouragement of people like Richard Imison, John Tydeman, Bernard Krichefski, and Martin Jenkins.

    I say 'in its day' because, like everything else, the commissioning system for radio drama is no longer the robust, open, producer-driven system it was. I used to recommend radio drama to every new writer seeking to break into the business, because not only was it an open market, but the skills you'd learn there would go on to serve you in all other media.

  2. I know some people have frustrations with the current system but my own experience with Radio 4 over the past year or two has been extremely positive. Despite the presence of a commissioning editor it still seems to me to be very much producer-driven.


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