Change in program choice.

After much research into the program my documentary would be most suited for, I initially wanted my documentary to be the type of feature to appear on the BBC, more specifically either the BBC world service or BBC 4’s why factor. However, I listened to several of their features in great detail and after much consideration I felt as if my feature and the vision I have of it would be more suited towards another program.

I came across Radiotopia. Launched by Public Radio Exchange (PRX), they describe it as “somewhat like an independent record label”. It is in fact an American podcast network that incorporates 16 shows, which have become insanely popular within two years of the station launch. Their podcasts are downloaded over 13 million times each month. It is hugely popular both in America and here in the UK, as it is fiercely independent and allows  an established platform for sustaining quality, story- driven public radio shows. 

Since the shift in technology and media, audio programs and features no longer have to be for just the radio, there has been a huge increase in the listenership of online podcasts and this is just one of the reasons why I have decided that my feature would be better suited for Radiotopia

Around the time of Radiotopia‘s launch in 2014 the network’s podcasts received around 900,000 downloads per month. This figure had increased to 7.5 million by May 2015 , 8.5 million in September 2015 and 13 million as of June 2016. 

The particular show hosted by Radiotopia, that I would see my feature being hosted on would be ‘Criminal‘. “Criminal is a podcast about crime. Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”

My documentary is about the death penalty – and although Criminal have created Episode 45: Just Mercy – which tells the story about a student lawyer who was working on a death row clients case, my documentary is based on the entire topic and whether or not it is a just punishment for a murder, closely looking at those affected. Therefore I can see my documentary fitting in with their recurring theme and Radiotopia as a whole. 

Another reason why I wanted to choose Radiotopia and Criminal, is because of the way they create their episodes. The use of music and sound effects and the way they let the people tell the stories is exactly how I envision my feature to be.

I found that although the documentaries on the BBC World Service and BBC 4 were compelling in the stories they had to tell, the execution of them were not to my taste, the lack of music, actuality and sound effects, in my opinion made me as a listener bored and switch off. This is something that I do not want happen with my piece. Although my interviewees and the stories they tell are deep, dark and utterly compelling on their own, by the clever use of music, actuality and sound effects I can bring what they say to life, with the aim to always keep them on their toes and intrigued about what is coming next. 

The ethics of Criminal for me to consider:

I decided to contact the creators of Criminal directly to find out the ethics and guidelines that they follow when creating their shows, in order for me to understand what I have to abide by for when I am creating my piece under their brand. 

Lauren Spohrer is the producer for Criminal and this is what she said:

“Each show in the Radiotopia collective is independently owned by its producers, and each show makes their own editorial choices. Before we started Criminal, we all worked in public radio and adhere to those principles: Most decisions regarding violence, language, pseudonyms etc, we talk them through on a case by case basis and typically we explain to the listener why we’ve made the choice we made to ensure transparency. You will also notice how we use disclaimers to warn our listeners of some of the content we have, when discussing violence etc. We have the creative freedom and platform to do what we want as long as we justify why we have done it.”

Check out Radiotopia and in particular Criminal for a feel of what my documentary will be similar to. 


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