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On 3rd April 1993 BBC Radio 4 Broadcast Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse. It was especially recorded to celebrate 50 years of Saturday Night Theatre, which was the worlds longest running radio title. However, just over three years later the title was removed from the schedule. BBC Radio are rightly world famous for the quality of their radio drama. Right up to the end of the 1980’s the Radio 4 schedules was packed full of plays and series and special seasons. The jewel in the crown was undoubtedly Saturday Night Theatre. A 90 minute prime time slot featuring all genres of dramatisations and well known plays, as well as many plays especially written for radio.

The programme had a huge following. Once discovered it became a regular part of a listeners life. In the same way that people can remember where they were when certain world events occurred, people can also remember their first Saturday Night Theatre. The highlight of the week was purchasing the latest edition of Radio Times and seeing what the following Saturday nights play was going to be. In the early 1990’s the BBC dramatically (no pun intended) reduced its drama output and as part of this exercise Saturday Night Theatre was scrapped.

The reasons for its removal are somewhat uncertain. One explanation was that modern audiences didn’t have the patience to listen to dramas that were more than one hour long, but this seemed to contradict the fact that at the same time the BBC begun to realise the commercial opportunities its radio catalogue presented.

The BBC does still broadcast the odd 90 minute play but they tend to either be either “High Brow” social dramas or Agatha Christie adaptations, which the BBC actualy make for retail purposes. As they are a public funded broadcaster their charter commits them to broadcast them first.

This website is focused on encouraging the BBC to bring back Saturday Night Theatre. There was a time when the BBC wouldn’t even consider bringing back Doctor Who, now having listened to its viewers it finds the programme is not only top of the ratings but also making vast sums of money for the corporation with DVD sales and other spin offs. There is no reason why Saturday Night Theatre can’t do the same for radio.

November – December 2010
Point Proved

In the section above, written when the site was first launched, the point was made that the BBC now only broadcast 90 minute dramas if they are Agatha Christie adaptations or “High Brow” social dramas. During November and December 2010 we have been treated to three 90 minute special dramas :

And then there were none        Agatha Christie (now available to buy)
The Gambler                           Dostoevsky
The Caretaker                         Harold Pinter

While these broadcasts are most welcome, why can’t Radio 4 take the gamble and give us something original and new.

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