Stories With Sound.

Radio Documentaries.

We need now to distinguish between Radio news and documentaries. As discussed news has a cyclical nature and presents a number of short items using the inverted pyramid. News is factual and informative and presented with an authoritative voice. It is anchor based and uses minimal music and ambience and usually ends on a light note.

Radio documentaries have a narrative structure and a long single theme. The detail is slowly revealed and the content is usually impressionistic or investigative. The mode of address is usually a questioning voice and the narrative is presenter led. Radio documentaries will use music and ambience and create mood and structure. They will also arrive at conclusions.

The structure of a documentary consists of a little teaser at the start followed by a brief introduction and title music. After the music there is a more detailed introduction as to the nature of documentary presented with ambient and relevant sound. For example if the documentary is about the sea then we may hear the sound of crashing waves behind the voice of the presenter. (This sound should never crash with the voice of the presenter which normally has priority over sound effects or mood music.) One on one interviews are usually conducted in the studio or in a quiet place where both the voices of the interviewer and the interviewee are clearly heard. The documentary will proffer conclusions or a summary at the end of the broadcast.

The multi-track components of a documentary will include ambient sound and music. These sounds would be suggestive of mood and context which is interspersed with studio narration (identified by the silence around the voice) and/or interviews where we can clearly distinguish between the speakers.

The radio documentary will also provide textual information which shifts in balance between components, creates intrigue while sounds pre-empt text to segment narrative and maintain interest.

In summary radio documentaries use sound material alongside informative text. Information is provided in progressive narrative formats (unlike news programs). Materials are compiled from recordings and they are not necessarily connected in the order they are heard on the finished piece. Radio documentaries depend heavily upon the listener’s imagination.


About Gerard Hannan

Media Student at MIC/UL in Limerick, Ireland. Worked as a Broadcaster/Journalist in Limerick for over 25 Years and has also published four local interest books.

Posted on March 27, 2012, in Media and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Admiring the dedication you put into your site and in depth
    information you provide. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while
    that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Fantastic read!
    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.


  2. You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the
    subject and found most persons will agree with your website.


Please Take A Moment To Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: