The BBC recently announced it is reducing the number of Short Story slots on Radio 4 from the already reduced figure of 3 - (it used to be 5) - to ONE per week, from next spring.
That means the opportunities for writers of new short fiction on our National Broadcasting service could all but vanish.
The press release adds that there will be 'readings on R4 Extra' - but not whether these will be new, commissioned pieces, or archive material.
It's an astonishingly self-contradictory move by the BBC, which gets such high praise for its sponsorship of the annual BBC National Short Story Award (the winner gets £15,000) http://www.theshortstory.org.uk/
This concerns me because I have made a partial, scruffy sort of living from writing for radio; from BBC Scotland's excellent Storyline strand in the 1990s, to Radio 4, 27 stories have been recorded, one of them - The Day I Met Sean Connery - receiving the 'reading of the year' accolade, and a blush-inducing set of fan mail.
But it's not about me. This is part of the wider issue of how the short story is valued, by readers and by purveyors of fiction in general.
The short story on Radio4 is an unequalled opportunity to create great moments of drama and intimacy for the reader, by the use of the single voice. It is the essence of storytelling, a voice in the dark prompting you to create scenes in your mind's eye. The 3.30 Afternoon Reading has an estimated 202,000 listeners per broadcast.
Of all the original fiction or drama produced by the BBC, it is probably the most economical to make; ironically, it actually pays less per minute than adaptations.
The BBC has played an important role in championing short story writing & writers, and it has been of particular value when other forms of publication for that singular skill have fallen away.
It would be a shame if this BBC legacy of fostering the art of storytelling, which it has done so well, and for so long, were to be discontinued, replaced by yet more 'interactive' factual programming.
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