Playwrite Louis Nowra has written a letter to the editor of The Australian, expressing his objections to the changes to drama on Radio National.
The ABC’s decision to axe radio drama is not a surprise. It has been coming for a few years.
As a writer of radio plays and someone who adores the form, I have noticed the ABC’s growing indifference to them.
In the past two years the BBC has commissioned and broadcast four radio plays of mine. The difference in attitude is profound. The BBC believes radio drama is as strong an art form as theatre or movies.
The idea of the ABC moving into the storytelling movement should be only one aspect of telling stories. What the national broadcaster is saying to Australian writers, producers, actors and composers is that you don’t matter. When one looks back at the history of ABC drama you realise how many actors, writers and producers have helped shape our cultural landscape.
The ABC says radio drama is not available in the podcast format so it cannot reach a wider audience. The truth is that because of the ABC’s indifference to radio drama, it has itself botched making this happen.
Michael Mason, acting manager, says that even if plays were podcast he can’t predict that they would gain a larger audience. Strangely, he can predict that the cheap story-telling shows he wants to make will gain huge audiences.
This change of direction is a denigration of our artists. This is not a courageous vision but the myopic imagination of bean counters.
Meanwhile, the Friends of the ABC has written to members saying:
Radio National – renowned for its breadth of programs of intellectual and cultural integrity – is being cut to meet a $1 million cut in its budget.
This year, generalist talk programs, traditionally a feature of local radio, took the place of specialist programming in some time slots. Now, highly skilled ABC program makers are about to be made redundant.
Next year, radio plays and book readings will be axed. So will Creative Instinct, Lingua Franca and The Night Air. Movie Time will finish, and RN’s once dedicated book program will be further diluted to incorporate movies.
Other programs will have shortened preparation times.
Do not let the ABC abandon its responsibilities to “inform”, “educate”, “encourage and promote drama and other performing arts”, and to “reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community”.