On Taking Things For Granted: A Suggestion

I’ve been thinking a lot over these past few days about the decision to cut the number of short stories broadcast on Radio 4 from three a week to one. Obviously, it’s not a great thing. But there must be some sort of reasoning behind the decision.

And this is what I think.
Much has been made of this in the short story world. Petitions have been set up and signed, it’s had coverage in mainstream media, there have been numerous blog posts, loads about in on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, it’s pretty fair to say it’s been everywhere, certainly in the short story world.
And here’s the thing. Before the announcement was made, hardly anyone mentioned it. Before the announcement was made, I seldom saw anyone singing Radio 4’s praises in relation to them broadcasting short stories, I saw hardly anyone saying what a great thing the station was doing, I hardly saw anyone linking to the show or even mentioning any of the three stories a week that were broadcast there. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism – I’m guilty of it too (and I’ll happily admit to hardly ever listening to them) – but it does make me wonder if we’d have mentioned it half as much while it was going, and spread the word, celebrated it, as we’re doing now – would the stories have been cut? 
There are loads and loads of excellent outlets for the form and I think it might be a useful thing to appreciate them, to support them, and to spread the word about them, for what they’re doing NOW, instead of missing them once they disappear.
Do you think it’s time we maybe made more of an effort? After all, no-one likes being taken for granted.

14 Comments on “On Taking Things For Granted: A Suggestion

  1.  by  Fat Roland

    I like short stories. I like Radio 4. I had no idea Radio 4 broadcast short stories. Either I'm very unobservant (likely) or it's never been that big a deal (possible).

  2.  by  dan powell

    A solid gold point there. Definitely more to be done. It's a sad truth about people that we only miss stuff when it's gone.

  3.  by  Loree Westron

    I think this is a good point, Nik. Perhaps we have taken Radio 4 for granted. It's been a tremendous advocate of the short story for many years, now, and is one of this country's largest (if not the largest) short story markets. I would, though, question the assertion that there are 'loads and loads of excellent outlets for the form' out there. At a push, I could name maybe half a dozen print publications in the UK which publish quality short stories – few of which pay more than a nominal fee and none of which are available at my local news agent. Sure, there are a number of high-profile competitions out there, but even these offer only a limited market when compared to Radio 4.What annoys me the most, though, with regards to Radio 4's decision to reduce short fiction in its schedule, is its obvious preference for comedy. Don't get me wrong – I like comedy as much as the next person (though I would dispute that much of Radio 4's comedy output is actually funny) – but there already seems to be a healthy dose of this in the current schedule. I count a good half dozen regular comedy slots each week plus numerous one-off comedy programmes. Yet the plans are to introduce 4 new slots for comedy each week. Am I the only one to suspect a bias?One of the BBC's remits is to 'stimulate creativity and cultural excellence' and to promote such endeavours which commercial broadcasters ignores. Surely, if anything belongs on Radio 4, it's the short story.

  4.  by  Nik Perring

    Fat Roland – hello! I think I'm in a similar situation to you. It's a strange one. I actually think that the biggest part of the problem is people (writers) only generally linking to places where their own stuff appears. I can understand why (and I'm guilty of it to a large extent) but I don't think it does much to serve short story readers as a whole – and with that in mind is does seem a little silly to complain about something being withdrawn when there's been very little mention and celebration of it while it's been supposedly been being wonderful.

  5.  by  Nik Perring

    True, Dan, true. I think it's time we started being more vocal about good places and good literature. Let's get to it!

  6.  by  Nik Perring

    Loree – hey! Welcome. Thanks for your thoughts on this.I agree completely that there aren't all that many good PAYING markets for the form, but I guess there isn't all that much that we, as short story writers, can do about that. I still think there are loads of places doing great things for the form, even if they're not paying at the same time.I agree to with your point about a bias towards comedy. It doesn't seem to make sense and nor does it seem to be fair. I do think though, that if more people had been more vocal and supportive of the stories they've heard broadcast there, regardless of genre, there'd be more of a convincing argument to keep the schedule as it is.And I wonder, as an extension of that, whether a lot of the people complaining are doing so because they see it as one less place for them to submit to, as opposed to the BBC limiting the broadcasting of short stories for people to listen to.Of course, I may be wrong…

  7.  by  Yvonne Johnston (@Whyjay99)

    I think many people have not listened to them as they are on at 3.30pm – a time when not many people are at home listening to the radio perhaps.Also – they used to be on 5 times a week and were only reduced to 3 times a week a few years ago. Now it will be once a week. So the R4 short story's decline is analogous to marital sex perhaps? And maybe both are taken for granted!

  8.  by  Sal Page

    I signed the petition because others wanted me to & I followed their lead (baa!) but have to confess I've never listened to a short story on the radio. I hardly ever listen to the radio at all.

  9.  by  Nik Perring

    Good points, Yvonne (though I must say that at 3.30 on a weekday, I'm FAR more likely to be writing than anything else!).

  10.  by  Nik Perring

    Well said, Sal! That's a really great point (and like I said – I rarely listen to them either – I actually prefer the Free Libraries Pod Cast). Of course there's nothing wrong with joining people in a good cause (short stories undoubtedly are!), but things are probably not always that straight forward…

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