This week, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast the last five Afternoon Plays. Ever.
Don’t panic — the station will continue to be the UK’s primary source of audio drama. But as of February 18, pretty much all of the station’s regular (non-Archers) slots are getting new names:
- Afternoon Play becomes Afternoon Drama
- Friday Play (when it’s on) becomes Friday Drama
- Saturday Play becomes Saturday Drama
- Woman’s Hour Drama becomes 15 Minute Drama
The last in the list is a bit of an oddity, but is presumably being renamed to account for the slot’s regular evening repeat and that its content matter isn’t always as female-centric as its current name would otherwise suggest. It does rather highlight that Woman’s Hour itself could be better named Forty Five Minutes of Covering Stuff That Ought Not to be Marginalised Elsewhere in the Schedules but Sadly Is. But I digress.
The reason for the name change is, according to a blog post by drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe:
The drama on Radio 4 is part of the BBC’s drama push whose tag line is Original British Drama - you will see it on your screens shortly - and we decided that this was an opportunity to bring the drama output on Radio 4 into line with the rest of the BBC.
Which is fine as far as it goes. For the most part, it makes no difference whether the 2.15-3pm slot Monday-Friday is called the Afternoon Play or the Afternoon Drama. Indeed, given the number of short series that run in the slot (like Pilgrim or Number 10) the name “Drama” is perhaps more all-encompassing than “Play”, which implies each programme in the slot is a one-off.
But back when Howe wrote his blog post, what struck in my craw a bit was the rather sniffy tone in which he sought to separate his slots’ content from other areas where the term “play” might also, validly, be used.