BLOG published on 10 Jan 2024

Moving with the times – a new era in audio storytelling

This image shows Liam O'Brien standing having his photo taken at Prix Europa in October 2023
Liam O'Brien pictured at Prix Europa, October 2023

The EBU Audio Storytelling Group has a new chair, Liam O’Brien, who is an audio documentary maker at RTÉ. His work was recently honoured at the 2023 Prix Europa, where his documentary “Blackrock Boys” was awarded ‘Best European Audio Investigation of the Year’.

What matters most to audiences today is how you tell the story, the characters, the tension – all the elements we use in story. They want to be entertained, enthralled, taken on a journey. That’s just the world we live in.

Where many in the European audio community might in the past have strongly opposed the idea of having dramatized elements within a documentary, now docu-drama has become a genre in video, audio, everywhere. Unless we’re changing, we’re going backwards as a community. We have to check ourselves every now and again, because audiences are changing rapidly.

For this reason, this year’s Audio Storytelling Festival (ASF) – the new name for what was previously called the International Features Conference – will for the first time include fiction and drama alongside factual content.

What’s unique about the ASF is that it is Europe’s only dedicated event for public service makers in audio. We do occasionally meet at events like the Prix Europa or the Prix Italia, but they are competitive events – you go to win. There is a learning element at those events too, but the ASF is about exchange, about engagement, about caring and sharing. It’s a space where you can safely and openly share what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you. That’s really important and is something that can only happen in the context of a body like the EBU.

For me, the top priority for our community must be quality. One could argue that we haven’t always listened to pieces at the conference for their quality. Other factors inevitably crept into the selection process over the years, like ensuring a geographical spread or diversity of different kinds. When you lose the quality, you lose your currency, because we should be analysing best practice and saying, “Here’s where the level is in this country, let’s all try to get to it”. That’s where the real learning comes in.

I’m very mindful of ensuring that we broaden the community as we move into the 50th year of this event. Previously, it was only ever held in a handful of countries, with largely the same delegates returning each year. It was a formula that worked, for sure, but we weren’t building as many roads and opening up the community. In the EBU Audio Storytelling Group, we’ve been bold in saying we want to take the event to new places and in 2024 we’ll be in Rome for the first time. We were in Iceland for the first time in 2023, and after Rome we’ll move to Lithuania, another first-time host.

In addition to our extensive EBU community, the ASF is also open to independent audio makers. Their presence will continue to be very important and we warmly encourage them to join us in Rome.

Contact detail

Edita Kudláčová
Head of Radio
+41 79 704 2461
kudlacova@ebu.ch