The 2018 TC/RHDF Competition celebrates the best non-fiction audio stories on radio, podcasts, Internet and more. ENTER NOW!

Scroll down to read all about the Awards, Guidelines, and FAQ.

NEW: The Best Serialized Story category requirements have changed, the 10 episode limit has been replaced by a 10 hour total running time limit. There is no limit to the number of episodes.


With so much great audio work being created as limited series, we had to create this new award. This category is for a single story that unfolds over multiple episodes. Each episode builds on the one before it, so that they must be listened to sequentially. For example, the entirety of S-Town , Making Obama , or Missing Richard Simmons. Also eligible are limited series created by ongoing shows, such as "On the Inside" from Reply All (episodes 64-67). Finally, a BSS can be a season of an ongoing show that follows one narrative such as Start-Up Season 4 about Dov Charney (7 episodes total). The maximum total running time for BSS entries is 10 hours maximum, there is no limit for the number of epsiodes.

The BSS will be listened to (at 1x speed) and judged by Third Coast staff, because we can’t imagine asking anyone else to set aside so much dedicated listening time!

BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARDSGold prize $4,500; Silver prize $3,500; Bronze prize $2,500; Honorable Mention $1,500
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. Musical and historical documentaries are welcome. Profiles and cultural snapshots are welcome. Podcasts and other programs that redefine the documentary form are welcome. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)

This 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 this award, 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 - more details on transcript requirements in the FAQ. Please also include a time stamp at the end of each page. BFL's may also be considered for the Director's Choice award. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)

This award recognizes a single story (regardless of style or structure) that has significantly impacted an individual, group or community. We are looking for audio stories that directly create or incite 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. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)

For a submission to be considered for the Radio Impact Award, candidates must include a statement (500 words max) on the entry form that offers clear and concise examples of the story's impact.

The Best News Feature (BNF) category 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)

This award is presented to a producer who entered the audio field between June 2016 and June 2018. To qualify, each entrant must have recorded, written and mixed her/his entry. It is permissible to have worked with an editor, as long as she/he performed in an advisory capacity only. Co-productions are not eligible in this category. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)

BNA candidates must confirm on the entry form that their submission was produced in accordance with the guidelines listed above.

This award recognizes stories that are out for fun. Credit to Ira Glass for urging 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)


  • Prizes ranging from $1,250 to $4,500
  • A license for Hindenburg Journalist Pro editing software
  • One gratis registration, and one friends & family registration to the 2018 Third Coast Conference, October 4-6 in Chicago
  • National recognition on Best of the Best: The 2018 Third Coast Festival Broadcast

Entry Guidelines


All Categories except Best Serialized Story:
$55 for entries uploaded on or before Tuesday, May 22 at noon PDT
$75 for all entries uploaded after Tuesday, May 22 noon PDT through Tuesday, June 19 at noon PDT

Student rate:
$35 for student entries uploaded on or before Tuesday, May 22 at noon PDT
$50 for all entries uploaded after Tuesday, May 22 noon PDT through Tuesday, June 19 at noon PDT

Best Serialized Story:
$150 for entries uploaded on or before Tuesday, May 22 at noon PDT
$200 for all entries uploaded Tuesday, May 22 after noon PDT through Tuesday, June 19 at noon PDT
(Student rate does not apply)

Entries uploaded after June 19 at noon PDT will not be judged.


Please Note: All ads and promos must be removed from the entry or it will be automatically disqualified (though don't worry if these appear in the credits after the piece is fully completed.)

Entries must have been produced and presented publicly for the first time on radio, podcast, Internet, or in a public setting (i.e. gallery, museum, classroom) between January 2017 and June 19, 2018.

Entries must be produced in English, with the exception of the Best Doc: Foreign Language category!

Work featured on this website or on Re:sound is still 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 and Internet rights to present submissions in their entireties as part of Best of the Best: The 2018 Third Coast Festival Broadcast between October 2018 and October 2020.


Entries should consist of an individual documentary or feature.

Each feature within a program that presents multiple pieces is a separate entry.

Each episode in a show/podcast is a separate entry, unless it's a Best Serialized Story entry.


Brief producer bio (80 words max)

A text version of the host lede, or a short intro for the entry (120 words max)

One MP3 audio file per entry, unless it's a Best Serialized Story entry, which should include an mp3 for each episode in the entered series.

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 Submittable, 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 312-948-4682.


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 22.

Please contact us to pay by check.

Frequently Asked Questions

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, 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

Is there a limit to how many documentaries or features I can enter?

Nope. But we 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 2017 - July 2018.)

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 story, and if it wins a prize, the program will be recognized too.

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 written version of the host lede/intro (120 word max) when you upload your entry at Submittable. The audio portion of your entry should consist only of the actual story.

**Should I leave in the ads, promos and billboards from the original show as part of my entry?

No, and I'm sorry to say that it slowed us down so much last year, that this year those entries will be automatically disqualified.

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. Documentaries should be relatively timeless in nature, and should transcend geographic location. Also, BNF entries can not exceed 12 minutes, while BD entries can run up to 60 minutes.

Is my Best News Feature entry eligible for Radio Impact or the Skylarking awards and visa versa?

Yes, just make sure to check the applicable boxes on the entry form.

Is my Best Doc: Foreign Language entry eligible for other awards as well?

We consider non-English works for the Best Documentary: Foreign Language category and for Directors Choice awards.

How should I format my English-language transcript for my Best Doc: Foreign Language entry?

All Best Doc: Foreign Language entries must be accompanied by an 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 TIME STAMPS 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.

How is the Best New Artist category judged?

This prize is awarded to someone who entered the audio field in the past two years, and who demonstrates both considerable skill and potential in his/her 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.

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:

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.

May I enter my fictional podcast for an award?

While Third Coast loves the new wave of audio fiction happening out in the world, the TC/RHDF Competition is for 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. For your straight-up fictional programs, we highly recommend you check out The Sarah Awards.

May co-producers submit an entry together?

Sure, with one exception, co-productions are not eligible for the Best New Artist Award.

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!

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? Run it through this checklist:

1) Could it win another prize at Third Coast? If so, it’s probably too important a story for the Skylarking Award.

2) Are the stakes low? Answer to this one should be “yes.”

3) Is the story really fun to listen to? The answer better be “yes” with an exclamation point. This prize exists only to reward fun. It can be fun plus other, bigger emotions, sure. It can be fun plus interesting ideas, absolutely. But it has to be happily, willfully, cheerfully, out to entertain.

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 Internet or in a public setting (gallery/museum/classroom/etc) between January 2017 and July 2018. Repeat entries have indeed won awards the second time around.

Is your eligibility window shorter this year?

Yes, 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.

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


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. We will accept checks only for entries submitted by the early deadline - Tuesday, May 22 at noon PDT.

When will winners be notified?

Winners will be notified in late-August with the good news.

When will the winners be announced to the world?

We'll announce the winners publicly in September, but won't reveal which specific award they've won until the Awards Celebration on November 11 in Chicago. We'll also live tweet the winners as they're announced!

How many gratis registrations will Third Coast offer to the winning producers?

Each winning entry receives one registration gratis, and a second registration at the friends and family rate of $250.