Doing Radio Drama - revised!

What is Radio Drama?

Radio drama consists of recorded fictional stories that are played for the public through radio stations. Recordings may also be played through the internet, using a method called “streaming”.

Radio dramas can have one or more actors, depending on the style of the performance. Narrative monologues or dialogues are the most common forms of radio drama presentations. Because radio drama relies only on sound, the way actors say their lines, when they say them, and the sound effects used are very important. With a growing number of broadcasting methods, the possibilities for sharing knowledge through the use of radio are increasing.

Why Use Radio Drama to Talk About Sexual Health and HIV?

With an estimated 2.4 billion radio sets worldwide and the increasing popularity of listening to the radio on mobile devices, especially in Africa (source), radio drama can be a valuable tool for HIV/AIDS awareness.

People of many different backgrounds in both rural and urban communities trust the radio to bring them their news, and because of this trust, they may be more willing to accept educational messages on HIV/AIDS over the air than in person. Radio listeners may also be interested in calling in anonymously to 1) discuss a radio drama and 2) comment on real-life stigma and discrimination. Even though radio dramas are fictional, it is important that accurate information is shared when raising HIV/AIDS awareness—and that stories are used to inform the audience rather than to spread hurtful messages about minority groups.


    Radio dramas can be accessed by diverse populations.
    Radio dramas are popular in both developed and developing nations.
    Radio dramas can be both educational and entertaining.
    Radio dramas can be recorded as podcasts and posted on personal or group blogs for further discussion.


    x The cost of creating a radio drama can be high, depending on how it is broadcast.
    x It can take a lot of time to put together a radio drama.
    x Internet radio is still unheard of and inaccessible in many communities.

Recommended reading—“Hope From Soaps: Radio dramas ‘target people’s hearts’ and alter their behaviour”

Broadcasting Methods

There are two main ways that a radio drama can be presented to an audience.

Broadcast radio: Shows playing on broadcast stations can easily reach an audience because you can hear them on any radio within the broadcast range, and it is possible to get the recording equipment needed for creating a radio drama from local radio stations, such as a community or school station.

Streaming/Podcasting: This is a web-based method of broadcasting. It is easy for any individual or group to use free audio editing tools to create a podcast and feature it on a blog (see YAHAnet’s how-to guide on podcasting).

Making a Radio Drama

Before Getting Started

There are important things to consider before the recording of a radio drama can take place:

  • Method of broadcast: How will the program be recorded? Will it be aired through the internet or via broadcast radio? Which radio station in your community or region is ideal for HIV/AIDS awareness programs?
  • Contacting the production director: If you want to broadcast a program through broadcast radio, it would be best to contact the Production Director of the radio station you would like to play your radio drama. This person decides which shows are broadcast on the station. A great place to start is within your own community. Begin by contacting the local or university/college radio stations.
  • Appropriate equipment: If you want to broadcast a radio drama over the internet, having the right equipment is important. A computer, a microphone, and suitable software are the basic tools required for recording internet radio shows. Here are some free software options.
  • Budget: The purchase or rental of equipment, recording time in a studio, and any other required services can be expensive. However, often a service provider will charge less if they are aware that the purpose of the service is for a good cause. Also, university stations are often eager to support student and youth initiatives by offering free air time.

Script and Performance

As mentioned earlier, radio dramas are entirely dependent on sound. For this reason, the choice of words, the way the lines are read, and the sound effects are important for creating a successful presentation. Since radio dramas are generally pre-recorded before being aired, there is lots of time to make sure that the presentation will be as good as possible. When writing the script, a few things to keep in mind include:

  • Character development: Make sure to create characters your audience can relate to. You want to hold listeners' attention and have them continue thinking about your show's characters and message for many days after they first hear the show.
  • Story genre: Your message can be conveyed through different genres, so which one you pick will depend on how you want the listener to feel.
  • Conflict/resolution: It is important to decide whether the characters in your story will face conflict and whether they will be able to solve their problems. This will help determine if the radio drama will have many parts or just one.
  • Music: This is a good way to get the attention of listeners, and music is able to express emotion well.
  • Time: Radio shows can be different lengths, so knowing who will be listening can help you decide how long the story should be.
  • Discussion: After a radio drama is broadcast, you can have listeners call in to discuss the content of the story.

Sharing and Archiving After the Broadcast

Recordings of radio dramas can be stored on CD/DVD/cassette or can be made into MP3s and saved on a computer or in an online storage space. Radio drama scripts can be printed out, as well. Local libraries, schools, community centers, and health clinics are all great places to contact to see if they would be willing to hand out physical copies of your show—or provide electronic copies on their websites. Of course, we hope that you will also upload your radio drama to the YAHAnet audio gallery! Easy access to the radio drama means that lots of different people will be able to gain HIV/AIDS awareness.

Combining Art Forms

Mixing different art forms can make your project even better! Some art forms that can be used in a radio drama include:

  • storytelling
  • music
  • books and novels
  • poetry

Radio Drama Projects for HIV/AIDS Awareness

1. Shuga: Love, Sex, and Money Radio Drama (2012)

2. Ekialo Kiona Youth-Driven Community Radio Program (Kenya, 2012)

3. Mahlabathe Speaks (South Africa, 2012)

4. Rock Point 256 (weekly radio drama in Uganda, 2005–present)

5. Wahapahapa (weekly radio drama in Tanzania, 2008)

6. Aventures de Foula (radio drama series in Niger, 2007)

7. Con el Viento a Favor/With the Wind in My Sails (radio soap opera in Peru, 2007)

8. Mopani Junction (radio soap opera in Zimbabwe, 2006)

9. Even Now There Is Still Hope (radio drama in Swaziland, 2004)

10. Ushikwapo Shikamana (radio soap opera in Kenya, 1999–2004)

Youth Radio Drama Projects in Need of Funding

Waterberg Waves (South Africa, 2011–)

Radio Drama and Social Change Bibliography

AIDS Action. (1987–2006).

Chambers, C. (2001). Radio: Behind media. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library.

De Fossard, E. (2005). Writing and producing radio dramas: Communication for behavior change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ellis, D. (2004). The heaven shop. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

Girard, B. (1992). A passion for radio: Radio waves and community. Montreal, QC: Black Rose Books. Full book available at

Heberlein, L.A. (2002). The Rough Guide to internet radio. London, England: Rough Guides.

© February 2013