Learning outcomes
 You will be able to describe the different
types of factual radio documentary
 You will be able to describe the different
 You will be able to describe the codes and
conventions of factual program production
What do you think factual
radio genres are?
What it is
 Factual programmes represent one of the largest sectors of
radio production providing an extensive range of
opportunities and professional roles within the industry.
 This sector is the prime communicator of information in
relation to worldwide events, national, regional and local
issues or opinion, and attitudes within society and
communities from the most serious global issues to the
purely entertaining. It provides enormous scope for
potential production ideas.
 The genre includes documentary, educational, magazine,
discussion, review, chat show, special interest (hobby,
makeover, and how-to formats), ‘reality’ TV and other subgenres. It involves engagement with the key media issues
of representation, access, objectivity, subjectivity and
communication of meaning.
Key point
 Although ‘factual’ is the basic definition of
the genre, there is a wide range of
opportunities for creativity both within the
production process and in interpreting the
topic or subject content, including
opportunities for learners to work on projects
that they find personally interesting and
 Educational
 Wildlife
 Special interest
 Magazine
 Discussion
 Investigative
 Archive
 Educational radio is mostly used to
communicate educational messages. In the
past this was mostly used in the past to
educate the community. Today eduacation
radio is distinct from the mainstream
examples include
 Banradionetwork, also schools use podcasts
or campus radio.
 See: Banradionetwork
 See: BBC Radio 4 The Learning Curve
Wildlife radio
 Similar to TV documentary wildlife
documentaries focus on the natural world.
 Early examples 1940’s Desmond Hawkins a The
 'Out of Doors
 Birds in Britain
 Today radio wildlife programs have often
replaced by television documentaries, although
some local BBC channels may make these types
of programs about their local habitats.
Special interest
 Special interest radio, much like special
interest magazines, focuses on a niche
market. Special interest radio programs can
be seen often with special interest music ,
Radio 2 in the evening focuses on special
interest programs. Dublim city Fm focuses on
special interest programs. Also local radio
covers this.
Magazine radio
Magazine radio programmes are usually weekly, and similar to their TV factual
counterparts. News magazines generally go more in-depth into stories, trying to give the
reader an understanding of the context surrounding important events, rather than just the
Radio news magazines are similar to television news magazines. Unlike radio newscasts,
which are typically about five minutes in length, radio news magazines can run from 30
minutes up to three hours or more.
Woman’s Hour is a radio magazine programme. In its current format, the first 45 minutes of
the programme consists of reports, interviews and debates on health, education, cultural
and political aimed at women and mothers (but often of general interest).
Examples includes: United Kingdom
Breakfast (daily, BBC Radio Five Live
Today (Monday–Saturday; Radio 4)
The World at One (Monday–Friday; Radio 4)
The World This Weekend (Sunday; Radio 4)
The World Tonight (Monday–Friday; Radio 4)
Worricker on Sunday (Sunday; Five Live)
Discussion radio programmes
 A discussion programme either on past or present
topics. Topics can be wide ranging andDiscussion &
Talk (3343 programmes)
 Beyond Belief Mystical Experiences (30 minutes) :
Ernie Rea discusses the impact of religious belief and
practice on today's society.
 Start the Week Austerity: Antony Gormley, David
Kynaston and Anna Coote (45 minutes)
 Andrew Marr is joined by Antony Gormley, David
Kynaston, Anna Coote and Fintan O'Toole: Thinking
Allowed Uniforms and status in hospitals - Cities
under siege (30 minutes)
Investigative radio
 Investigative radio programmes similar to
their factual TV programmes like Panorama,
focus on investigating issues.
 Examples include: Radio 4's flagship
investigative programme, File on 4.
 Radio 5 Live investigative radio
Archive radio programmes.
 Are programmes that have been shown, but
are now archived. The BBC has a catalogue of
these which can be accessed.
 See:
 Most factual radio content in the UK is produced by
the BBC or other commercials radio stations.
 Most factual content such as investigative or special
interest is produced by the BBC, as they have a very
niche audiences. Remember commercial radio is
about having shows which attracts a wider target
audience. These types of programmes are often
played in the evening on commercial stations to a
specialist audience, and in the morning they have a
breakfast or magazine show.
 BRMB does have programmes like the Sanctuary a
discussion programme.
Commercial radio schedule
 Check out commercial radio stations and see
what they schedule is when are these factual
programmes shown.
 presenter led:
 Narrated
 ballad style: It combines four elements of
sound: songs, instrumental music, sound effects,
and, most importantly, the recorded voices of
those who are the subjects of the documentary
 actuality based: recorded segment of a
newsmaker speaking, generally lasting from 10
to 20 seconds; this is what people outside of
radio journalism often call a "sound bite"
 music and song linked
Format: Presenter led
 Presenter led: In radio a lot of the content is
presenter led, rather than just music led. If you
look at NME, this changed from a music led
programme to a presenter led programme.
 Different formats can include big personalities
like Chris Moyles. They can be different types of
personalities to suit the audience.
 Also male and female duo acts which you will
find on breakfast shows like Heart FM, Capital.
Look at both heart FM west midlands and East
midlands this format is nearly identical. Along
with the playlist.
 Rather than presenter led, this is where a
narrator narrates the programme. Similar to TV
documentaries. Narrated programmes can be a
stand alone or be part of a presenter led
programme. Examples includes wildlife radio
documentaries and to some extent investigative
pieces. Again this would probably start with
presenter led, then lead onto a narrative
programme about the issues
 Genres like magazine programmes or
discussions would probably not work if they were
just narrated.
Ballad Style
 The Radio Ballad documentary technique was devised by
folk singer and songwriter Ewan MacColl and BBC
producer Charles Parker in the late 1950s.
 Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker did the first Radio Ballad
in the late 1950s They broke the mould of British radio by
interviewing people working in the declining fishing
industry, building Britain's new motorway system, working
as coal miners or fighting for a living as a professional
 The life stories they gathered inspired MacColl and musical
partner Peggy Seeger to gather songwriters to write new
songs about lives mostly hidden from society at large.
 With their self-narrating style and musical bridges, the
Ballads re-wrote radio and one, 'Singing the Fishing', won
radio's highest award, the Prix Italia.
Actuality radio
 Actuality Actual recording of news event or
person(s) involved. Actuality is a recorded
segment of a newsmaker speaking, generally
lasting from 10 to 20 seconds; this is what people
outside of radio journalism often call a "sound
 Actuality is non-fiction radio genre that like the
actuality documentary film uses footage of real
events, places, and things, yet unlike the
documentary is not structured into a larger
Music and song
 Features music and songs. Examples include
Céilí House is one of RTÉ Radio's most
popular programmes of traditional Irish
music and song
Codes and conventions
 All factual radio programmes like their TV
counterparts must contain the following:
 balance; impartiality; objectivity; subjectivity;
opinion; bias; representation; access; privacy;
contract with listener
 However, news programs will have more of a
concerns with some of these issues than say
magazine or discussion programmes, which they
may not be as impartial or objective, Talk Sport
would be examples, but the viewer would be
aware of the bias present in the discussions.
BBC Commissioning process
 The commissioning process for pre-recorded factual radio
programmes can vary according to the radio station. However,
probably the most relevant commissioning process is that
adopted by BBC Radio 4.
 Programmes are produced either in-house by producers
employed by the BBC or by independent radio production
companies pre-approved by the BBC. The commissioning process
is an annual event and programmes are either suggested by the
independents, or a senior commissioning editor sends out letters
(containing brief details of content, target audience, duration
etc) to pre-approved production companies asking for
expressions of interest in producing specific programmes.
Companies then send back a standard proposal, consisting of a
single A4 sheet with a maximum of 500 words, which includes: a
working title, subject summary, required duration, indication of
style, the angle, a list of elements (or scenes), a list of
contributors, and an overall budget figure for the production.
BBC Commissioning process
 This process is the guidelines the BBC has for
commissioning radio. There is also a guide
available for TV and other media.
 This guide will also help you understand the
institutional content for presentation roles
and techniques.
 http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/radio/