Sue Teddern

“Radio writers are at the mercy of a BBC in crisis”

Speech given by WGGB member Sue Teddern in support of a motion on the BBC, passed at TUC Congress 2015

Hello. My name is Sue Teddern. I serve on the Radio Committee of The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. I write for TV and radio.

I grew up on the Home Service: Round the Horne, The Clitheroe Kid, Mrs Dales’ Diary. I listened with Mother.

By the time the Home Service became Radio 4, I was hooked.

I was inspired to write for a living by radio classics like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Anthony Minghella’s Cigarettes & Chocolate.

My first commission was a radio play called Sauce. I write for TV too now. But I always come back to radio. Because I love it and because Radio 4 is the soundtrack to my life. For many of you too, I’m sure.

The BBC is at risk for all the reasons already outlined. Commentators talk about the threat to Albert Square and the diminution of sequins and spray tans on Strictly Come Dancing. And I agree with them.

But I’m here to speak up for the poor relations of prime-time, big bucks, water-cooler TV… And that’s BBC radio drama and comedy.

Writers have been belt-tightening and salami-slicing for years. Radio 4 broadcasts over 600 hours of first-run drama each year. But budgets are stretched to breaking point.

If you’ve noticed an increase in radio productions with just two characters, that’s because we’re encouraged to keep casts small in order to make frozen budgets go further. So we’re also affecting the livelihoods of our friends in Equity. NOT a comradely position to be in.

Radio writers are at the mercy of a BBC in crisis. And yet we continue to offer scripts for consideration. Where else can we go? The BBC is the market leader and the only game in town.

SO. Enjoy The Archers as you microwave your lasagne. Chuckle to a new comedy when you’re stuck in a four-mile tailback on the M25.

But when the salami is sliced right up to that nasty bit of string at the end, these are the treasures of British culture we will ALL lose. We MUSTN’T let that happen.

I support this motion. Thank you.