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Friday, 15 January, 1999, 12:03 GMT
Actors fear for future of radio drama
Timothy West
Timothy West in the BBC 1 comedy Goodnight Sweetheart
Actors are meeting on Friday to mark 75 years of radio drama - and reveal their fears that its days might be numbered.

The BBC, which broadcast the first specially-written radio play in 1924, has been accused of reducing its commitment to radio drama. A BBC spokesperson. Has denied there is cause for alarm: "Drama is there every day at the heart of the schedule, and it always has been," she said.

Actor Timothy West is speaking at the meeting held by broadcasting pressure group the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, London.

Other speakers at the meeting include current BBC head of radio drama Kate Rowland, writer Wally K Daly, director Gordon House and former head of BBC radio drama John Tydeman.

'Losing commitment'

VLV Chairman Jocelyn Hay said: "There is a huge amount of fear and uncertainty about the future."

"This will be a celebration, but it will also draw attention to the suspicion that the BBC is losing its commitment to this marvellous medium, which continues to give pleasure to millions of listeners each year. "

BBC Radio 4 ended its regular 90-minute Monday drama slot in James Boyle's schedule changes last year. The amount of time dedicated to drama on BBC Radio 4 remains the same, but the VLV have said that many listeners feel resources have been cut back and diverted into more popular stories, soapy serials and younger, cheaper writers.

'No time'

According to the BBC, 90-minute dramas are problematic because few people have the time to listen to them all. Long drama slots now tend to be scheduled for Bank Holidays when people are likely to have the time.

Upcoming radio dramas on the BBC include: Charles I starring Timothy West and Derek Jacobi; Charlotte Bronte's Villette starring Joseph Fiennes and Catherine McCormack, both on Radio 4; an epic trilogy about Troy and Juliet Stevenson in the Howard Barker play House Of Correction, both for Radio 3.

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