The Playgoer: BBC Radio Play Podcasts

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

BBC Radio Play Podcasts

I've just been turned onto the BBC Radio 4 site's Arts & Drama page, with tons of downloadable readings of both literature and drama. The plays range from Stoppard to emerging contemporary writers, all with crackerjack London casts and top rank directors.

A goldmine.

The fact there is no equivalent site in the US arts world is astounding, saddening, and yet not surprising. What further proof do you need of the value of The Word in the two cultures.

Of course, this is eminently do-able here. And probably pretty cheaply. It just takes someone who has the idea. And believes in it.


June said...

I couldn't agree more about the magnificence of BBC Radio 4 drama, but let's acknowledge that the funding structure of the BBC--and the lack of anything comparable over here--is what makes this possible.

The BBC is funded by a license fee that every Brit who owns a television must pay every year--currently it's £131.50, about $250. The vast majority of that money goes to television, but it also funds all the BBC radio channels. Thanks to the "public service remit" of the BBC, there's a paternalistic commitment to providing "quality" product--drama and wonderful "speech radio" on Radio 4 and classical (and increasingly world and folk) music on Radio 3. As well as sports and talk radio on 5 Live, muzak on Radio 2, popular music on Radio 1, and lots and lots of local and digital channels.

Over here, there's no equivalent national broadcaster. Yes, the first word of NPR is "national," but the majority of funding comes from local stations. Almost all NPR output--as opposed to shows produced by local affiliates and made available for national distribution--is news.

Once again, drama--which works superbly on radio--doesn't get the bucks. (It's incredibly hard to get picked up by local NPR affiliates--most of them are happy with the schedule they currently offer, and radio listeners are very reluctant to have the schedule they're used to messed with and often kick up a fuss when there's even rumors of change. So, there's little incentive to create a radio drama show--and no money to fund new works--when the chances of the show being picked up are slim.)

It's not just listeners who lose out, either. The actor bios in British equivalents of Playbill always have long listings for their radio work.

June said...

Speaking of the knock-on effects of government subsidies to theater/drama, this story in the Stage's Newsblog is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I'm wonder if for this sort of thing, the actor unions are a bit easier to work with in England.

Anonymous said...

Hiya, this blog is really interesting - it's amazing how little money there is out there for people other than the BBC to produce audio drama - I run this company and we have to run on donations and good will alone - good fun though!