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A radio documentary or feature is a purely acoustic performance devoted to covering a particular topic in some depth, usually with a mixture of commentary and sound pictures. It is broadcast on radio or published on audio media, such as tape or CD. Some radio features, especially those including specially composed music or other pieces of audio art, resemble radio drama in many ways, though non-fictional in subject matter, while others consist principally of more straightforward, journalistic-type reporting – but at much greater length than found in an ordinary news report.
At its best, radio combines the power and immediacy of great documentary films with the intimacy and poetry of a New Yorker-style magazine piece.
Staring red-eyed at the mirror in front of me, having spent another day and half of the night with my computer, I ask myself fundamental questions: Why radio? Why documentary? Answer: No other medium can provide me with more freedom of creation and investigation. It meets my urgent interest in reality and the desire for a 'musical' expression. The material (der Werkstoff) is sound. And sound always surrounds us. And: I'm not so much interested in the description of stable situations, but in processes. Our medium is not space, but time; our stories are not glued to the ground, but have motion, life ... That's why!— Helmut Kopetzky, German author, Self-portrait
So what is a radio feature? Technically speaking, it is a 30- to 60-minute, elaborate broadcast from a semantic field related to a radio drama, that can contain all the elements from original sound (interviews) and author texts (epic or scenic type) to noise and music.— Patrick Conley, 60 Years of Radio Feature in Germany, 2007
Documentaries in Developing Nations
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There has been tremendous interest in the field of Radio Documentaries particularly in the developing nations such as India, Iran, South Korea and Malaysia. In India for example, Radio Documentary is gaining in popularity due to the flexibility, efficiency and accessibility to the masses. Producers such as Chitra Narain and Danish Iqbal have been accredited with its revival and popularity in the region. Danish Iqbal who is primarily a Drama Producer combined the elements of Dramatic narrative to produce some memorable Radio Documentaries. His Documentary "Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai' is considered a Classic for the use of effective narrative and ambient sounds. This Documentary presents a heartfelt account of unseen bridges between a Kashmiri Shikarah Wala and his Auto Rickshaw Driver friend in Delhi. Although they never met each other but their unseen bond is the subject of this rare Documentary which transcends the barriers of political, religious and regional prejudices.
Because both Chitra and Danish had a long tenure at Delhi and had creative collaboration with many Media Institutes, their influence is seminal in shaping the thinking of many of their students and co-workers. Danish won twice the prestigious Public Service Broadcasting Award for his documentaries.
Notable feature makers
- Sharon Davis
- John Quinn, RTÉ
- Noah Adams
- Jay Allison
- Eurydice Aroney
- Tony Barrell
- Alex Blumberg
- Peter Leonhard Braun
- Kyla Brettle
- Edwin Brys
- Bill Bunbury
- Scott Carrier
- Alex Chadwick
- [[Sharon Davis ]]
- Bill Drake
- Stephen Erickson
- Joe Frank
- Laurence Gilliam
- John Gilliland
- Ira Glass (and This American Life)
- Glenn Gould (The Solitude Trilogy)
- Alan Hall
- Berit Hedemann (Prix Europa Yleisradio 1997 and 1998)
- David Isay
- Malta Jasperson
- Lisbeth Jessen
- Kitchen Sisters
- Ronan Kelly
- Brigitte Kirilow
- Helmut Kopetzky
- Robert Krulwich
- Bill Lichtenstein
- Klaus Lindemann
- Bosse Lindquist (Prix Futura/Prix Europa 1995, and others)
Siobhan McHugh 
Jane Ulman 
- Association of Independents in Radio
- American RadioWorks
- Archive.org Audio
- Hearing Voices
- Public Radio eXchange
- Radio Diaries
- RTE Documentary On One
- Salt Institute for Documentary Studies
- This American Life
- Third Coast International Audio Festival
- Tune In - Radio Documentaries
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Radio documentaries.|
- ABC Radio National - Background Briefing
- ABC Radio National - Current Affairs Specials
- ABC Radio National - Earshot
- ABC Radio National - Hindsight
- ABC Radio National - Mongrel Nation Six-part radio documentary series about immigration and multiculturalism in Australia.
- ABC Radio National - Pocketdocs
- ABC Radio National - Radio Eye
- ABC Radio National - Showcase
- ABC Radio National - The Night Air
- ABC Radio National - 360 Documentaries
- Alabama Life
- Al Jazeera radio documentaries
- America Abroad
- American Radio Works - documentaries
- APM Reports
- Babe Ruth's Major League Debut: 100th. Anniversary Radio documentary series about baseball star Babe Ruth featuring interviews, documentaries, and tributes.
- BBC - Newshour Extra
- BBC Radio Documentaries available to listen to online
- BBC Radio 2 - World War One Radio documentary about World War One
- BBC Radio 3 - The Radio 3 Documentary
- BBC Radio 4 - Punt PI Humourous radio documentary series.
- BBC - The Radio Ballads
- BBC World Service documentaries
- CBC - As It Happened
- CBC - Back Story
- CBC - By Design
- CBC - Rewind
- CBC - Stripped Documentary series about the human body.
- CBC - The Doc Project
- CBC - The Sunday Edition Radio programme featuring interviews, music, and radio documentaries.
- Cooper St. James Radio documentary-maker.
- Crossing East Radio documentary series about Asian migration to the United States of America.
- Documentary On Newstalk Irish radio station Newstalk's documentary series.
- El Nuevo Sol documentaries
- Getting In Radio documentary series produced by Slate magazine about applying for college.
- Human Media Radio documentary production group.
- Happy Presidents Day! Conversations, speeches, and documentaries about American presidents.
- International Day of Peace
- Lichtenstein Creative Media
- KCRW - Sonic Trace
- KCRW - Strangers
- KCUR documentaries and specials
- KQED documentaries
- KUT Presents
- Making Contact
- Michele Freeman Radio documentary-maker.
- Michigan Radio series & documentaries
- Nature Stories
- New York Academy
- 99% Invisible Radio documentary programme about architecture and design.
- NPO radio documentaries Dutch radio documentaries.
- NPR Disney Radio Hall documentaries
- NYC Media - Secrets of New York
- Outside/In Documentary series about nature and how humankind uses it.
- Pacifica Radio Network's Audioport
- PBS - Frontline Audiocast
- PBS - Point Of View
- PBS - The American Experience
- Post-Apartheid South Africa: 20 Years On Radio documentary series.
- PRI - Whose Century Is It?
- PRX Remix
- Radio Diaries of Sciences - Science & The City
- Radio New Zealand - A Wrinkle In Time Radio documentary series about ageing.
- Radio New Zealand - Spectrum
- Radio New Zealand - Sunday Morning With Wallace Chapman
- Radiolab Presents: More Perfect
- Rowan radio documentaries
- RT radio documentaries
- RTE - Documentary on One Irish Radio Documentaries.
- SBS - The Story Untold - Part 1 Part 1 of the radio documentary The Story Untold, which is about the possibility of contact between people from the Indian subcontinent with the Indigenous people of Australia during the Stone Age.
- SBS - The Story Untold - Part 2 Part 2 of the radio documentary The Story Untold, which is about the possibility of contact between people from the Indian subcontinent with the Indigenous people of Australia during the Stone Age.
- Siobhan McHugh Radio documentary-maker.
- Smithsonian Folkways Record label that produces recordings of music and radio documentaries.
- Sound Portraits
- SoundFeatures.Com - Updated listing of downloadable documentaries
- State Of The Re:Union
- Stuff They Don't Want You To Know Radio documentary series examining conspiracy theories.
- Swedish Radio, The Documentary Department
- Talking History
- The Changing World
- The Heart
- The Kitchen Sisters Radio documentary-makers.
- The Listening Lounge
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness Radio documentary series
- The Outside Podcast
- The Stanley Foundation radio documentaries
- The 7th. Avenue Project Radio programme featuring documentaries and interviews.
- The Trail
- The Uncertain Hour
- The Untold
- Us & Them
- Vinny Hurrell
- The World In Words Radio documentary series about linguistics.
- This Thing Called Love
- Voices of the First World War Radio documentary series by the Imperial War Museum about the First World War.
- Metropocalypse Documentary series about issues related to the Washington D.C. railways.
- WBUR - Inside Out
- WFIU - Profiles
- WNYC - Documentary of the Week
- WNYC - Documentary Specials
- WNYC - Radio Rookies
- WNYC - There Goes The Neighborhood Documentary series about the gentrification of Brooklyn.