“First the good news. Classic radio documentary is in generally good health in the BBC. Features and feature-type programmes are still plentiful and craft standards have risen in recent years. In the severe cuts announced in October 2011, serious speech radio (including documentaries and drama) escaped significant reductions. Time for producers to make programmes has traditionally been less than in other countries (especially Scandinavia) but is being protected and not reduced. Audiences are rising.
The big challenge stems from the audience: shortening attention span, multi-tasking, impatience with programmes that 'don't deliver quickly' and the loss of 'radio culture' amongst key future demographics (15-35 year-olds) threaten future health. Many of this group simply don't own a radio, even a DAB set. The absence of radio devices on certain platforms (especially smartphones) is a serious threat. Despite the advantages of podcasts - and they are in the ascendant - in a noisy marketplace, the quiet seriousness of sustained feature-making of up to one hour in length is necessarily going to be a luxury that fewer people will wish to enjoy. We need to find forms and approaches to both editorial and technological challenges that respond to those needs."
Simon Elmes, BBC, radio documentary/creative director, United Kingdom