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BredowCast 68 – Literatur im Radio

BredowCast 68 – Literatur im Radio

Literature and radio share a special relationship - from the earliest days of radio to the present. Senior Researcher Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner talks to Johanna Sebauer about the development of a real "symbiosis".
Shortly after the first radio broadcast in Germany in October 1923, writers and the medium radio began to converge. Storytelling for the ears was tested with new technical means. The radio play was born. Author Alfred Döblin even described radio as a return to the origins of storytelling, which lie in oral storytelling.

After modest beginnings, writing for radio quickly began to professionalise. In the decentralised structure of public broadcasting that was rebuilt under the allies after the end of the war, there was even a real competition among them to do justice to their self-evident role as a cultural factor, reports Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner. "The aim was to attract good authors and get the best texts for one's own station. Sometimes smaller broadcasters joined forces in order to reach the fee level of the big broadcasters.
Current Challenges
Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner does not only research historical contexts of how authors dealt with radio and how radio legitimised itself as a cultural producer. From his work as a critic and juror, he also knows how radio playwrights have to face the consequences of digitalisation today and that this does not only bring good things to their guild.

In June, numerous authors published an open letter addressed to ARD. In this letter, they complain about the current terms of payment and remuneration rules, especially with regard to putting their productions online in media libraries. While in pre-digital times, a radio play was often repeated several times and taken over by other broadcasters - from which the authors earned each time - a fee paid only once is not enough today to adequately finance the time spent working on a good radio play. Thus, a new chapter is being opened in this symbiotic relationship.


Wagner, Hans-Ulrich. 2019. “Writers and Radio: How Literary Authors Have Made Use of the Medium over a Century”. TMG Journal for Media History 22 (2): 8–23. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18146/tmg.597

Open Letter from the Radio Playwrights


 Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner

Johanna Sebauer

Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut


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