I’ve been meaning to put together a post on this subject for a couple of weeks. I’m fairly late to the party, so apologies if I’m just going over old ground here.
Radio 4 has announced a reduction in the number of short stories it broadcasts. For years, the station put out a story every day, then more recently this dropped to three a week. Now they are looking at an output of just one per week. There are suggestions that some of the displaced stories may end up on Radio 4 Extra, although at the moment this seems vague and nobody seems to have a clear answer on whether these are going to be new works or repeats dug out of the archives.
Understandably, this decision hasn’t been well-received by the writing community. Radio 4 allows your work to be heard by many thousands of people and they always looked to source stories from both established writers and ‘new voices’. Nothing else offers that kind of exposure for a writer’s work. People whose blogs I follow have been encouraging fellow writers and radio listeners to join forces to try to overturn this decision. Tania Hershman and Jonathan Pinnock (who have both had stories broadcast on Radio 4) urge people to sign the petition against the proposed reduction. There is a campaign running on the National Short Story Week website.
I added my name to a letter sent to the Controller of Radio 4, Gwyneth Williams, penned by Susie Maguire and Ian Skillicorn. The letter asked for clarification of what was happening and why. As far as I can tell, there as yet has been no specific response from the Beeb.
However, I’ve not signed the petition. Not yet, at least. I think my attitude to the cuts is similar to Nik Perring’s. I feel a bit hypocritical bemoaning the loss of the stories. After all, they’re broadcast at 3:30pm and I spend most of the working week in an office, where there’s no way I could listen to the radio. On the rare occasions when I find myself at home at that sort of time, I’m unlikely to remember to switch the radio on. The last time I heard one of Radio 4’s afternoon readings was months ago, when I was driving home from a meeting that finished early. I switched on the car stereo just as the story was introduced, and was delighted to find it was by Adam Thorpe, one of my favourite writers. I thought it was brilliant, and really well produced, but it was weeks before I could have listened to another reading.
The one thing I haven’t seen amongst all the advice being dished out about how to respond to the situation (“Campaign!”, “Complain!”) is anybody suggesting we actually listen to the stories. After all, they are available at any time you like over the internet via Radio 4’s Afternoon Reading page. A surge in audience figures for the stories would undermine any assertion that they aren't a popular feature and could therefore be cut back without upsetting anyone.
So that’s my plan. I’ll make more effort to actually listen to the stories before I complain that they’re being taken away. I will sign the petition, but I will do it as a listener who has enjoyed the programmes and wishes them to continue, rather than as a writer with vague dreams of someday hearing one of my stories read out but otherwise showing no interest.
Who’s with me?