On the BBC R4 decision to cut the 15′ drama weekday mornings

This week, R4 made the announcement that they would be extending Woman’s Hour to a full hour. This “extension” means cutting yet another of the diminishing number of slots devoted to drama.

Many people have taken to Social Media to express their dismay; among them is Caroline Raphael, a former Head of Radio Drama, who spoke of her “anger at the continuing erosion of Audio Drama on the BBC”.

Audio Committee Chair, Sheila Mitchell, has long been campaigning to Save Radio Drama. She has written the below as a first – but most definitely not last – response to the latest cuts.

One and a half cheers for Caroline Raphael. Sorry not to be more enthusiastic but Woman’s Hour losing its drama slot is not the problem which should be exercising any of us who care about BBC Radio. That problem is TV.

Once that was invented what had sparkled as a massive jewel in Great Britain’s crown was allowed to fade away to a tiny diamond chip. The licence fee was gobbled up by what was seen as this potential money maker, this giant picture machine which was replacing the original little voice box which had informed, educated and entertained us all so successfully for so many years.

The BBC’s worldwide reputation came from the excellence of its spoken word programming. Scan the schedules of BBC Radio these days and you will be hard put to it to find dramas, dramatised documentaries, readings from books or short stories. A large part of the reason for this is that whoever it is who decides how to allot the licence fee has consistently overlooked Radio in favour of TV.

Ironically the smallest percentage of a TV budget, that spent on the trimmings (or luxuries), would hardly be missed whereas that same percentage would be gold dust to Radio producers.

For some years Equity has been a lone voice in the desert calling for a renaissance of radio. It is time now to involve the public who, for the most part, are unaware how close we are to losing what no other country in the world does as well as we do, spoken word programming.

– Sheila Mitchell