Radio drama

Authored by: Hugh Chignell

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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A media historian interested in British radio drama might be surprised by the absence of any published history of the subject or the lack of relevant articles in academic journals. In his survey of British radio drama, Priessnitz (1981) laments the paucity of reviews in the press (compared to theatre reviews) and the poor quality of radio criticism, which is often merely “personal preference”. Asa Briggs, in volume five of his history of British broadcasting (1995), covering 1955–74, a volume of over 1,100 pages, barely mentions radio drama at all. He does mention the great radio dramatist Giles Cooper, but for his television not his radio writing. There is no mention at all of Val Gielgud (Head of Drama at the BBC from 1934 to 1963) or Samuel Beckett. We should not be tempted by this omission to think that there is nothing of interest for the media historian in radio drama; far from it – from its invention early in the twentieth century drama has been used in a variety of ways on radio and the story of its development is instructive for students of both radio and drama.

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