The Society of Authors has said it would be a "great shame" if the BBC goes ahead with its planned cuts to short story coverage on BBC Radio 4 and pleaded with the broadcaster to reconsider.
The station announced earlier this month that it is to cut its number of short story broadcasts from three to one a week from next spring.
In a letter to BBC Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams, the SoA said: "We were astonished to hear this news, not least because at recent meetings you reiterated the BBC's commitment to showcasing new and original writing. It seems a very odd move given that the BBC sponsors the prestigious BBC National Short Story Award and has done much to raise the awareness and appreciation of this wonderful art-form.”
The letter continued: “Generally, the short story is experiencing a revival in popularity, having proved a perfect medium for the internet age; it is excellent for podcast and download. We are surprised that the BBC has not seen the commercial possibilities of this format and note that it is one of the most economical forms of programming—the only costs being those of paying the writer and the reader.
"It would be a huge shame if this BBC legacy of fostering the art of storytelling, which it has done so well for so long, were to be reduced. Especially when one considers that only a few years ago there were five broadcasts a week.”
The SoA called on Williams for a meeting to discuss the letter and urged those upset by the changes to sign an online petition via the National Short Story Week website.
In a response to questioning via National Short Story Week, the BBC last night said in a statement: "From April next year, Radio 4 will still commission around 100 short stories a year—50 of which will be broadcast first on Radio 4 Extra. Radio 4 will continue to support the National Short Story Award, with all five shortlisted stories broadcast across the week.
“Radio 4 also continues to broadcast its popular reading strands ‘Book of the Week’ and ‘Book at Bedtime’ and promote books and reading in programmes such as ‘A Good Read’, ‘Open Book’ and ‘Book Club’. Dramatisations of works of fiction can also be heard in the ‘Classic Serial’and the ‘Woman's Hour Drama’. Radio 4 Extra also commissions a number of abridged book readings throughout the year.
“From November through to next spring, all short story commissions bought so far will continue to be broadcast elsewhere in the schedule."