The Call for Entries is closed!

The Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition seeks the best audio stories produced worldwide. Since 2001, the TC/RHDF Competition has celebrated more than 200 extraordinary stories from four continents and has bestowed over $250,000 in cash prizes to many of the most innovative producers of the past two decades.

Get inspired by listening to 18 years of past winners!

The 2019 TC/RHDF Competition will celebrate the best non-fiction audio stories on radio, podcasts, the internet, and more. We'll award the best work in the following categories: Best Documentary, Best New Artist, Radio Impact, Best Serialized Story, Best News Feature, Best Foreign Language and Skylarking.

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Important Dates

Call for Entries Announced:
April 30

Early Deadline:
May 28, 3pm CST

Final Deadline for Best Serialized Story
NEW: Now extended to June 7, 3pm CST

Final Deadline (for all but Best Serialized Story):
June 18, 3pm CST**

Winners Notified:
Late August

Winners Announced:
Early October

Awards Ceremony:
November 2 (Chicago, IL)


  • Prizes ranging from $1,500 to $5,000
  • One gratis registration for the producer and one friends & family registration for the co-producer to the 2019 Third Coast Conference, October 31 – November 2 in Chicago
  • Celebratory recognition at the Third Coast Awards Ceremony on November 2, the final night of the Third Coast Conference
  • National recognition on "Best of the Best: The 2019 Third Coast Festival Broadcast"

2019 Award Categories

BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARDS — Gold prize: $5,000; Silver prize: $4,000; Bronze prize: $3,000; Honorable Mention prize: $1,750

Entries for the Best Documentary category should document a place, time, person, event, phenomenon, or issue. These include but are not limited to: investigative reports, narrative stories, personal essays, and audio portraits. We’re interested in stories that innovate, inform, and inspire; we’re interested in stories that haven’t been told before — or are told in a new way.

Length eligibility: 3-60 minutes

We created the Best Serialized Story (BSS) award in 2018 to recognize outstanding stories that unfold beautifully over multiple episodes. In these limited series, each episode builds on the one before it, to tell a complete story (for example, the entirety of Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo which won our 2018 BSS Award). Also eligible are limited series created by ongoing shows, such as Silent Evidence , which was 4 episodes of the The Heart in 2016. Finally, a BSS can be a single season of an ongoing show that follows one narrative, such as Start-Up Season 4 about Dov Charney (7 episodes total).

Length eligibility: total running time for BSS entries is 10 hours maximum. There is no limit for the number of episodes.

NOTE: The BBS entry deadline has been extended till Friday, June 7 at 3pm CST.

Unlike the rest of our juried awards, the Directors Choice award is given by Third Coast staff to an entry that strongly demonstrates innovation and creativity in storytelling, sound design and/or overall production style.

Length eligibility: 3-60 minutes

Through the Best Documentary: Foreign Language Award (BFL), Third Coast celebrates the diversity of audio works produced in languages other than English, from anywhere in the world.

English transcript AND original language transcript are required for entry; find more details on transcript requirements in the FAQ. BFLs may also be considered for the Director's Choice award.

Length eligibility: 3-60 minutes

The Radio Impact (RI) award recognizes a single audio story that has significantly impacted an individual, group or community. We are looking for work that has created definable change. This can be an investigative report that influenced public debate or a radio story that changed the course of an individual’s life, or something else entirely.

For a submission to be considered for the RI award, candidates must include a statement (500 words maximum) that offers clear and concise examples of the story's impact.

Length eligibility 3-60 minutes

The Best News Feature (BNF) award honors exceptional news features reported worldwide. Submissions should be stories (local, national, international) produced in response to events and issues. Enterprising work that brings new stories to light is also encouraged.

BNF entries should exhibit exemplary reporting and journalistic integrity. As with Best Documentary entries, BNF submissions should begin with a compelling story choice, and exhibit strong writing, creativity and the use of sound where appropriate. BNF entries are not eligible for the Best Documentary Award.

Length eligibility 3-12 minutes

The Best New Artist (BNA) award is presented to a producer who entered the audio field between June 2017 and June 2019. To qualify, each entrant must have recorded, written and mixed their entry. It is permissible to have worked with an editor, as long as that person contributed in an advisory capacity only. Co-productions are not eligible in this category.

Length eligibility: 3-60 minutes

The Skylarking award recognizes stories that are out for fun. That doesn't mean that don't have stakes, or send us on an emotional journey. But they seek to amuse along the way. Credit to Ira Glass for inspiring us to create this award with these true words: "These stories often require just as much craft and thought and cunning as the big important stuff. Radio would be duller and sadder without them."

Length eligibility: 3-60 minutes

Entry Guidelines


All Categories except Best Serialized Story:
$55 for entries uploaded on or before Tuesday, May 28 at 3pm CST
$80 for all entries uploaded after Tuesday, May 28 at 3pm CST through Tuesday, June 18 at 3pm CST

Student & Best New Artist rate:
$35 for student entries uploaded on or before Tuesday, May 28 at 3pm CST
$50 for all entries uploaded after Tuesday, May 28 at 3pm CST through Tuesday, June 18 at 3pm CST

Best Serialized Story:
$200 for entries uploaded on or before Tuesday, May 28 at 3pm CST

NOTE: All BSS entries must be submitted by the early deadline, and the Student/BNA rate does not apply


Simply, you should think of each entry as a single story or piece.

So, in the case of a program or show that presents multiple, distinct pieces/stories within a single episode, each of those should be submitted as a separate entry. When one story is told in one show or podcast episode, that entire episode should be submitted as one entry. Please remove any host lede/intros. The audio portion of your entry should consist only of the actual story.


  • All ads and promos before and in the middle of an entry must be removed or the entry will be automatically disqualified. (Ads or promos that appear in the final credits are fine.)
  • Entries must have been produced and available publicly for the first time on radio, podcast, internet, or in a public setting (i.e. theater, gallery, museum, classroom, etc) between January 2018 and May 28, 2019 (the early deadline).
  • Entries must be produced in English, with the exception of the Best Documentary: Foreign Language category.
    Work featured on and/or Re:sound is eligible for entry into the Competition.
  • Each producer must sign the release and license agreement on the entry form, which provides Third Coast with broadcast, podcast and Internet rights to present submissions in their entireties as part of Best of the Best: The 2019 Third Coast Festival Broadcast between October 2019 and October 2021.


  • A brief producer bio (80 words maximum)
  • A text summary of the entry (120 words maximum)
  • One MP3 audio file per entry (unless it's a Best Serialized Story entry, in which case it should include an MP3 for each episode in the series)
  • The entry fee
  • For Radio Impact entries only: Statement of Impact (500 words max)
  • For Best Doc: Foreign Language entries only: Bilingual English and original language transcript with time stamps at the bottom of each page


Entries are only accepted through our Submittable form, where you'll find clear instructions for uploading your story. Submittable will be able to answer your tech questions, for everything else email Third Coast or call us at 312-948-4652.


Payment by credit card / PayPal is strongly recommended but checks are accepted only for entries submitted by the early deadline. Checks must be mailed/postmarked by the early deadline, May 28.

Please contact us to pay by check.


1. How will I know if my series is eligible for the Best Serialized Story category?
Ask yourself if the episodes in the series stand alone, if they could be entered & judged separately even though they are on the same topic. If so, then the answer is no, and you should enter the strongest episodes/stories of your series into the Best Documentary category.

If, on the other hand, if your series is a single narrative, told over multiple parts, where each episode must be heard sequentially, then the answer is yes. If you're still not sure, please write to us for clarification at

Please make sure to clearly number all the episodes so that we know the correct order.

2. Can I enter my submission for Best Serialized Story to be judged for other award categories as well?
You may enter a single episode of your series (if it makes sense as a standalone episode) to be judged for another award category such as Best Documentary, etc. To do that, submit the episode separately as a new entry. The episode will then be judged as a standalone piece under whatever award category you have selected.

3. Is there a limit to how many documentaries or features I can enter?
There is no limit to how many entries you can submit. We do however recommend that individual producers submit their top three stories and that radio shows/podcasts enter their top six stories produced within the eligibility window (January 2018 - May 28, 2019).

4. May I enter a program or show that includes a number of separate stories and interviews?
Each story within a program that presents multiple stories, such as All Things Considered or Snap Judgment, is a separate entry. Enter the strongest stories, and if any of them wins a prize, the program will be recognized too.

5. Should I include the audio of the host lede/intro that was read before my story aired, as part of my entry?
Please don't! You'll be prompted to submit a short summary of the entry (120 word max) when you upload your entry at Submittable. The audio portion of your entry should consist only of the actual story.

6. Should I leave in the ads, promos, and billboards from the original show as part of my entry?
No, and because work with ads and billboards greatly slows down the entry processing and judging, these entries will be automatically disqualified.

7. How should I decide whether to enter my work as a Best Documentary or Best News Feature?
BNF entries should be driven by events and news. It's okay if BNF content becomes dated or if these works have a local feel. Also, BNF entries can not exceed 12 minutes, while BD entries can run up to 60 minutes.

8. Can I enter my story in multiple award categories?
Yes, provided that it meets the eligibility requirements of each category and that you provide any necessary additional information for each category.

If your piece is entered in the Best New Artist category as well as other award categories, you may still select the "Best New Artist/Student" fee.

9. How should I format my English-language transcript for my Best Doc: Foreign Language entry?
All Best Documentary: Foreign Language entries must be accompanied by one easy-to-read PDF transcript in English, as well as in the original language in which the documentary was produced. The font must be 12-point or larger, double spaced, and should include timestamps at the end of each page. There is an optional space on the entry form for a brief summary of any cultural context useful for reviewers.

10. How is the Best New Artist category judged?
This prize is awarded to someone who has entered the audio field within the past two years, and who demonstrates both considerable skill and potential in their work. To qualify, a producer must have recorded, written, and mixed their entry. BNA entries can not be co-productions. If you're wondering if you qualify, please contact us directly at

11. What information should I include in my Radio Impact statement?
You should describe the tangible impact your story has had on a life or community. For example, did your story encourage policy-makers to take a new approach, neighbors to protest the status quo, or individuals to make significant changes in their lives? Here is a sample statement from the 2016 Radio Impact Award winner:

From Michigan Radio, Not Safe to Drink

" Not Safe to Drink is a documentary that asked the question: How did the contamination of an entire US city’s water happen, in 2015? Michigan Radio was the first news outlet to cover the Flint Water Crisis in depth, and this documentary was instrumental in getting national coverage of the issue. Days after it aired and was published on our website, large portions of it were picked up by the Rachel Maddow Show and it became a national story. And while the Governor’s administration and the Department of Environmental Quality went on a public relations blitz to blame this disaster on “local officials,” Not Safe To Drink linked the actions that caused this disaster back to state officials.

Since the documentary aired, the Governor apologized to the people of Michigan in his State of the State address, declared a state of emergency and activated National Guard troops to assist in distributing free water to the residents of Flint. The state also switched Flint back to its original water source.

The Region 5 Director of the EPA, the director of the MDEQ, the spokesperson for the MDEQ and the press secretary for the Governor all resigned. Criminal charges have been filed against two state employees and one city employee for misleading officials and tampering with data. The state attorney general filed civil suits against the two companies that assisted Flint with the water switch. The Department of Justice and FBI continue to investigate the decisions that created this disaster. The EPA has also tightened its lead and copper testing rules for municipalities.

The water in Flint, still, however, is not safe to drink."

12. Can I enter a piece that includes fictional elements?
The Third Coast/RHDF Competition is aimed to award the best works in non-fiction. That said, if your non-fiction work contains elements of fiction, or plays along the fuzzy line of fact/faction, we do encourage you to enter it.

13. May co-producers submit an entry together?
Yes, with one exception: co-productions are not eligible for the Best New Artist Award.

14. May I submit an entry for the Best New Artist Award if I've collaborated with musicians?
We do want to encourage this sort of thing, so at the risk of complicating matters, yes!

15. How do I know if my story/entry qualifies for the Skylarking Award?
We'll quote Ira Glass on this one, since he inspired the award: "Now and then it occurs to me that some of my very favorite radio stories would never ever win an award. Because they’re not about anything Big and Serious and Important. There’s a whole class of stories I love hearing and love doing that really are just out for fun.

Where’s the award you can win for a story about a guy and his girlfriend who decide to take a Rumspringa from their relationship and sleep with as many other people as possible? Where’s the prize for the seven-minute interview with a guy from Calgary, who learns, mid-interview, that the boosterish ‘Hello Calgary’ song that filled him with local pride growing up was actually used by a hundred other cities (‘Hello Rochester,’ ‘Hello Knoxville,’ ‘Hello Milwaukee’)?

These stories require just as much craft and thought and cunning as the big important stuff. Radio would be duller and sadder without them. They make the world a better place.”

How can you tell if your story qualifies? Ask yourself: Is the story fun to listen to? The answer better be “yes” with an exclamation point! It can be fun plus other, bigger emotions, sure. It can be fun plus interesting ideas, absolutely. But it has to be happily, willfully out to entertain.

16. May I enter the same piece two years in a row?
Yes, as long as your entry fits into our window of eligibility – meaning it was first presented publicly on a podcast, broadcast, via the internet, or in a public setting (gallery/museum/classroom/etc) between January 1, 2018 and May 28, 2019. Repeat entries have indeed won awards the second time around.

17. Is your eligibility window shorter this year?
Yes, we changed the window beginning in 2018. Instead of two full years, it's now 1.5 years. There's so much great work being produced these days, it made sense to shorten this window a tad.

18. May I submit work produced for commercial radio and other commercial venues?

19. Is it possible to pay for my entry by check?
We strongly encourage you to pay by credit card or Paypal, but if your only option is to pay by check please contact us at We will accept checks only for entries submitted by the early deadline: Tuesday, May 28 at 3pm CST.

20. When will winners be notified?
Winners will be notified in late-August with the good news.

21. When will the winners be announced to the world?
We'll announce the winners publicly in October, but won't reveal which specific award they've won until the Awards Celebration on November 2 in Chicago. We'll also live tweet the winners as they're announced!

22. How many gratis registrations will Third Coast offer to the winning producers?
Each winning entry receives one registration gratis, and a second registration for a co-producer at the friends and family rate of $275.

Got other questions?

Email us or call 312-948-4652.

The annual TC/RHDF Competition is made possible with support from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

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