Tag Archives: radio drama

BBC Media Action: How radio drama is helping change attitudes in South Sudan

(Source: BBC Media Action)

Our radio drama Life in Lulu which depicts the lives and trials of people living in a small village in South Sudan and its regular listeners include inmates at Tonj prison. Henning Goransson Sandberg, our Research Manager, talks about his visit there to understand what they took from the programme.

The prison sits on a main road, overlooking the river that flows past the city of Tonj, in central South Sudan. The doors are open to the street, and the only guard at the entrance takes a cursory look through my bag as I walk past his desk on my way in. The courtyard, where most of the prisoners spend the day looking after cows, farming or cooking food, is patrolled by guards and surrounded by a low wall.

I meet the prison director who shows us around and tells me why the prisoners are there; their crimes range from fraud, shoplifting and petty theft to rape, assault and murder. The most serious offenders have their feet chained together, he tells me.

I am here to speak to inmates who have taken part in radio listening clubs facilitated by presenters from Döör FM, the local radio station. They have been discussing Life in Lulu, BBC Media Action’s radio drama about the residents of a small village. The drama, now in its fifth season, is broadcast across South Sudan and explores a number of issues including non-violent ways to resolve conflict.

Döör FM, which means “Peace” in the Dinka language, is a private radio station broadcasting mainly religious, education and public information programmes in the local dialect. The station started the listening clubs around a year ago and has since staged discussions about forgiveness, peaceful conflict resolution, the dangers of weapons in civilian hands and the dangers posed by mines and other explosives. By showing its characters making poor decisions when they are angry or drunk, Life in Lulu highlights the dangers of owning and using weapons.

Most prisoners had not heard the programme before starting their sentences, mainly because they had no access to a radio. But for the past six months they had listened weekly and discussed the show when the Döör FM presenters came to visit. The storylines seemed to resonate with them.

Achol has served two years of an indeterminate sentence for a gun-related crime. “All the problems that exist in this community occur because of guns,” he said. “If you don’t have gun according to the perception we have here is that you are not a man and you don’t deserve the respect that men in the society enjoy.”[…]

Continue reading this full article t the BBC Media Action website.

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Video: Watch students at KSDB perform a numbers station radio drama

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, James Copeland, who writes:

I have enjoyed reading the SWLing Post for years and appreciate all your hard work. I wanted to share something with you that might interest the readers.

A few months ago, I was inspired to start writing a radio drama about a number station after reading an article on the SWLing Post about someone working at a number station.

I am the program director for the student-run radio station at Kansas State University, and we performed this drama live last Tuesday on our radio station.

The plot follows a worker at the station who has to decide what to do when she learns that the numbers she reads end up killing people and could start a nuclear war.

There are also a lot of short recordings from various active and inactive stations, including one of my recordings of HM01 at the end of the show.

We at KSDB love producing radio dramas and make them just like the golden days of radio with as many live sound effects as possible.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks for sharing this, James! I love it!

I listened to the audio as I hiked this afternoon–I actually prefer “theatre of the mind” without visuals with the first listen. Now I’ll watch the studio video and enjoy the reading, sound effects and direction!

James, you’re welcome to share your radio dramas here anytime! Bravo for putting together such a cool little radio drama. I love the off air numbers station recordings and clips!

Post readers: If you’d like to learn more about KSDB-FM or to stream their programming, check out their website and TuneIn stream.

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Whether fearsome or forgettable, The War of the Worlds left us with a gift

orson_wellesWithout a doubt, one of the most famous broadcasts in radio history––indeed, in American history––was Orson Welles’ radio production of the H. G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel, The War of the Worlds.  A Halloween radio drama from the The Mercury Theatre on the Air series from the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)The War of the Worlds aired on October 30, 1938–exactly 75 years ago, today. And it’s still creating a stir…

Memorable legend?

The Welles’ production of The War of the Worlds invariably receives a side note or breakout in US history texts because of the unprecedented panic it incited in unsuspecting radio listeners during the tense period just prior to World War II, when radio was truly king of mass media and information.  Listeners reportedly took to the streets upon hearing the Mercury Theatre’s seemingly credible “accounts” of monsters from Mars invading New Jersey.

dailynews-WOTW-PanicBecause many listeners tuned in the production without hearing the Welles’ introduction to the drama, they heard what sounded like a live news report of Martians attacking our planet.  While it seems dubious today, what made Welles’ production so convincing was his innovative use of mock news breaks, and what listeners described as a “deafening” silence after a supposed “eyewitness report.” It sounded, in short, terribly authentic, and therefore convincing.

Few believe Welles was intentionally trying to trick his audience; rather, sources suggest he was attempting to treat his listening audience by infusing what would have otherwise been a fairly staid radio drama with imagination, creating a captivating thriller.

The result? By most accounts, Welles’ succeeded. Without doubt, The War of the Worlds propelled this young theatrical director into the public spotlight, onto the big screen, and made his name known the world over.

Last night I had the pleasure of viewing a brilliant documentary about The War of the Worlds on PBS’s American Experience. It told, in detail, of the events leading up to the production, the very convincing reasons why it had the impact it did, and offered entertaining listener accounts from letters sent to CBS. If you missed it,  you can watch it, too, by clicking here.

NPR’s RadioLab also devoted their most recent show to Welles’ production of The War of the Worlds. You can listen to their broadcast on their website, or via the embedded player below:

…Or forgettable myth?

War-of-the-worlds-tripodThen this morning, I read a rather provocative article by  and  in Slate; their mutinous view of the impact of Welles’ The War of the Worlds broadcast flies in the face of the American Experience and RadioLab documentaries and, indeed, every history textbook which devotes space to Welles. These authors claim:

“The supposed [War of the Worlds] panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary in the PBS and NPR programs, almost nobody was fooled by Welles’ broadcast.”

The authors go on to explain that the myth of Welles’ mass hysteria was fabricated:

“How did the story of panicked listeners begin? Blame America’s newspapers. Radio had siphoned off advertising revenue from print during the Depression, badly damaging the newspaper industry. So the papers seized the opportunity presented by Welles’ program to discredit radio as a source of news. The newspaper industry sensationalized the panic to prove to advertisers, and regulators, that radio management was irresponsible and not to be trusted.”

I encourage you to read the full Slate article, however, as it goes into much greater detail supporting the author’s assertions, which I find both logical and compelling.

But that’s not all.  This afternoon, while writing this post, NPR published a new article about The War of the Worlds, highlighting the Slate piece and the American Experience and RadioLab productions, but drawing no conclusions of their own. Click here to read the full NPR post.

Strangely, nothing I’ve read so far about The War of the Worlds mentions what I feel to be most obvious.

So, what came of it?

welles-war-of-the-worldsI believe Welles’ controversial radio production did something for radio listeners regardless of the level of panic it may––or may not––have engendered. Welles’ Halloween production left them (and us) with a gift. How so?

Prior to the dense radio propaganda surrounding World War II, The War of the Worlds undoubtedly made radio listeners, from that point forward, seriously question what they were hearing over the air. It forced them to listen with a skeptical ear, to realize that no matter how “real” a report might sound, not to assume its authenticity just because it was broadcast on the radio––or, for that matter, printed on the page of a newspaper. This was to become an invaluable tool in the coming days of American involvement in the war, especially for GIs desperate for news from the home front while propaganda seized the media.  Whether during Welles’ thrilling production or in the news frenzy that followed,  radio’s power had been publicly highlighted, and that power was sure to have an enormous impact on the coming world war.

In conclusion, perhaps we need another such event in this age of television and Internet. All too many people no longer question what they see, read, or hear from either source; these readers/viewers accept reporting of any stripe with blind faith, swallowing news bites and opinion pieces like digital candy. Then they tweet…and re-tweet.

Indeed, this is a common complaint I hear from many shortwave radio listeners.  I suspect this is because we, in contrast, tend to be motivated by hearing the many differing voices on the air and allowing our grey matter––our brains––to discern fact from fiction.

We owe Welles a debt of gratitude.

But don’t take my word for it…

RadioListeniningRegardless:  whether Welles created widespread or merely local panic, or whether you even buy my theory that this production taught us to question what we hear, it’s difficult to deny that the Orson Welles’ production of The War of The Worlds was a brilliant, ground-breaking radio drama.  And, I would add, great seasonal entertainment. Fortunately for us, almost 75 years later (nearly to the minute!), we can listen to archived recordings of the original CBS production.

If you would like to hear the original, simply click here to download the broadcast as an MP3, or listen via the embedded player below.

Happy Halloween!  Enjoy (and keep your hat on, folks):

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