Impact of network radio broadcasts on the audience and critical peer environment

Submitting Institution

Glynd┼Ár University

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies

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Summary of the impact

This impact case study describes the benefits realised from research and practice within the network radio broadcast environment. The impact arises from four examples of Harrison's broadcast outputs, and the case study reports audience impact and critical review within a highly demanding and competitive broadcast environment — that of the United Kingdom's national speech radio broadcaster — BBC Radio 4.

Underpinning research

The research focusses on four examples of Harrison's broadcast outputs during this current REF period. Harrison has been employed by Glyndŵr University throughout the period included in this submission. These research outputs build on Harrison's academic career (previously at the University of Manchester) and her broadcast research practice prior to 2009 and demonstrate interests in the medium of audio broadcasting itself, and the academic undertones and deep thinking that should support any BBC Radio 4 output.

`On it' is a collaboration between producer Harrison and writer Tony Pitts; based on research interviews conducted with the family that this true story is based on. The play was produced as an accurate, sensitively dramatised account, of how an entire family and its dynamics can be impacted by fatal drug addiction and won awards for its impact.

`What texting owes to the literary enlightenment' was conceived and written by Harrison to explore the issue: What does the development of text-speak have in common with the language of the eighteenth century Literary Enlightenment? In the programme, presenter (comedian, actor and poet) Chris Addison explores the ludic and expressive elements of text-language, or textese, via insights found in the letters of Jonathan Swift and the works of James Joyce and Lewis Carroll; with contributions from contemporary authors. The production entailed: primary and secondary academic research, interviewing contributors, choosing appropriate segments of said interviews, structuring the audio and composing a script around this (to which Chris Addison then added his own `flavour' and commentary).

`On Northern Men' was conceived and written by Harrison to explore changing portrayals of `Northern Men' in radio and television over the past 40 years. Through archive research and commentary, the programme explores the way that northern English masculinities have been portrayed in British film and television, reconciling issues of blatant sentimentality with the real-life social parallels that inform the canon of the past 50 years.

`Affluent Workers Revisited, Revisited' was conceived, researched and written and produced by Harrison in collaboration with presenter Sarfraz Manzoor and sociologist Prof. Fiona Devine. Harrison had developed an interest while an undergraduate student in the Goldthorpe study of car workers (`Affluent Workers', Goldthorpe) in the 1960's and Fiona Devine's subsequent study of a similar Luton-based sample in the 1980s. Harrison approached, the now Professor, Devine ahead of a Radio 4 commissioning round and the proposal for the programme was agreed, pitched and commissioned. In the programme, Luton-born Sarfraz Manzoor explores his home town as a subject of sociological fascination with Professor Fiona Devine, who studied the town's workers during the late 1980s.

References to the research

Copies of broadcasts are available on request if not in the public domain. These have also been submitted in REF2.

UoA36 36-1 Harrison 'On It'

On It'. Radio Broadcast, BBC Radio 4 (Afternoon Drama). Woolyback Productions Ltd. First Broadcast on Friday 28th October 2011, Repeated Tuesday 19th February 2013 Sally Harrison (Producer) Tony Pitts (Writer)

UoA36 36-2 Harrison 'What Texting Owes To The Literary Enlightenment'

`What Texting Owes To The Literary Enlightenment'. Radio Broadcast, BBC Radio 4 (Arts Feature / Popular Arts Documentary), Tuesday 10th March 2009 Sally Harrison (Producer & Writer) Chris Addison (Presenter)

UoA36 36-3 Harrison 'On northern men'

`On Northern Men'. Radio Broadcast: BBC Radio 4; Broadcast on 25th of July 2009 at 8.02pm and repeated on 27th of July (Radio 4 Archive Hour). Sally Harrison (Producer & Writer) Kay Mellor (Presenter)

UoA36 36-4 Harrison 'Affluent workers revisited, revisited'

`Affluent Workers Revisited, Revisited'. Radio Broadcast, BBC Radio 4 (Social History Feature), Tuesday 23rd February 2010

Sally Harrison (Producer & Writer) Sally Harrison with Professor Fiona Devine (Researchers) Sarfraz Manzoor (Presenter)

Details of the impact

The impact of UoA36 36-1 is most clearly demonstrated in its peer-reviewed successes in the awards fora for the audio broadcast industries. (Ref. a and b below).

BBC Broadcasting is subject to audience measurement methodologies that, in recent years, can be seen to demonstrate the growing success and strength of BBC Radio 4's broadcast output. This collection of Harrison's four programme outputs (UoA36 36-1, 36-2, 36-3 and 36-4) were commissioned by the BBC on the basis that they contribute to maintaining the distinctive quality of the BBC's broadcast output. And indeed during the period of this work, the context of the research sits within a period of growth in BBC Radio 4 listenership.

Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) figures show consistent growth during the period which Harrison's broadcasts were transmitted. The sampling methodology used by RAJAR does not make it possible to gain specific listening figures for one individual radio programme. But taking evidence from the network figures as a whole; for example — between January and March 2011, 21% of UK adults (over 16) were listening to BBC Radio 4 regularly and the network reached 10.8 million listeners each week. BBC Radio 4 has the largest audience for a speech radio station in the UK with discerning listeners; dedicating themselves to the highest amount of hours listening than any other BBC station — at 12 hours per week. (Reference c, d and e)

The other key measure of impact here is qualitative audience measurement and response, gathered via official sources. BBC Radio 4 has its own direct measures of audience appreciation in measuring listener satisfaction — this includes collecting content received directly from listeners via their online feedback, and is used by producers and the broadcast network itself in gauging listener satisfaction for particular programmes. The two examples below, can be seen to demonstrate how, for example, `On It' elicited a genuine audience response in terms of what it set out to do in terms of both its medium and subject matter.

Received on 28th of October 2011 via Radio 4:
"The best drama I have ever come across about a young person with a drug addiction. So beautifully written, so painfully real and the story and characters so entirely believable. Adam Gillen as Liam brought an exceptional performance and for me, he brought a well written character heartbreakingly to life. will keep an eye out for this young actor. Please pass my comments to the programme makers. Thank you "

Received on 4th of November 2011via Radio 4:
"I'm in floods of tears as the result of the excellent, but heart-breaking Afternoon Play "on It". As a mother of 2 sons who are hopefully escaping the horrors of this pernicious and most evil of drugs, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the Jones family and congratulate you on this realistic and down to earth approach to a subject that touches more families than you can ever imagine".

Sources to corroborate the impact

Reference a: `On It' — Sony Awards 2012 — Production Award — Gold — Best Drama

Reference b: `On It' — BBC Audio Awards 2013 — Best Drama

Reference c: Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) quarterly figures relating to transmission periods of broadcasts.

Reference d: BBC Radio 4 Commissioning Guidelines, Section 2: ‚The BBC Radio 4 Audience

Reference e: BBC Audience Information January — March 2011