Best Documentary (BD)

The Best Documentary category celebrates narrative audio stories that embrace – and complicate – traditions of documentary and non-fiction storytelling.

Narrative audio stories welcomed in the Best Documentary category include, but are not limited to: longform journalism, investigation, cultural documentary, personal essay, or audio portrait. Within this category, we welcome work that blurs genre and style, including the lines between fact and fiction. We’re interested in sound-rich stories that innovate, inform, and inspire — stories that haven’t been told before, or are being told in a new way.

For Entrants: the 2023-24 Call for Entries is launching soon!

The week of December 4, 2023, we'll open up our 2023-24 Call for Entries, a unique dialogue between Third Coast and the diverse communities of people making this work around the world.

Everyone, everywhere, is invited to enter audio works across formats & in any language. Our goal is to create a different kind of backbone for the industry – inciting dialogue, experimentation, and new critical new opportunities in audio. This year, that will include offerings like: more Award-Winners & Finalists than ever before, an expanded Feedback Initiative, new discounts for self-funded entrants, and more new programs from Third Coast spotlighting outstanding makers from the field.

We'll be updating all Competition-related pages for the 2023-24 Call for Entries launch, including this one. For now, feel free to read through the Best Documentary category page from the 2022-23 Competition Cycle. Make sure to also check out the Third Coast/RHDF Competition Showcase, featuring our 2022-23 Winners, Finalists & Judges.)


Best Documentary (BD) is one of the founding categories of the Third Coast/RHDF Competition, now accepting work in any language between 10-75 minutes. There are three awards available in this category — Gold, Silver & Bronze — each of which will be honored with a cash prize, unique physical award, and public recognition around the world, including a public showcase of comments from the judges. We now offer a list of Third Coast Finalists in this category, announced alongside Award-winners. Learn more about all of our Competition Offerings, and share your input to help us expand them in the future.

Please note: The 2022-23 Call for Entries closed on March 10, 2023.

2022-23 Eligibility Information
  • Length: 10-75 minutes
  • Publication: Must have been published between September 1, 2020 and March 10, 2023
  • Format: One single audio file, .mp3 preferred by .wav accepted, no larger than 100 MB. All advertisements or sponsorship segments must be removed from the audio file — this includes previews for upcoming episodes of this or other programs.
  • Language: There are no language requirements for this category. If you are entering work in a non-English language, you must provide a translated transcript.

2022-23 Entry Rates

As always, our entry rates were most affordable before our Early Deadline.. If you’re interested in learning more about rates for the 2022-23 Third Coast/RHDF Competition, check out our complete breakdown of sliding scale rates across all categories.

Note: As a Pilot Offering this year, we honored our Early Deadline rates through the Final Deadline for all non-English Language entries in any category.

Each year, our rates are shaped by our Collective Pricing philosophy, which distributes cost according to entrants’ access to resources.

2022-23 Entry Checklist
  • Audio file (mp3 preferred, wav also accepted) with all ads removed
  • Total length of the entry (Minutes:Seconds)
  • Full credits (host, producer, sound designer, editor, etc.)
  • Description/summary of your entry (150 words or fewer preferred)
  • Transcript (optional for English-language series, required for non-English)

2022-2023 Best Documentary FAQ

How do I enter this category?

  • If your entry meets the eligibility requirements above, you may select “Best Documentary” on the entry form. Your work will be considered for all three Awards in the Best Documentary category: Gold, Silver & Bronze, as well as being considered as a Third Coast Finalist in the Best Documentary category.

Can I enter other categories too?

  • Yes. If you are entering the Best Documentary category, your entry is automatically considered for Directors’ Choice. It may also be eligible for Best New Artist, Impact, Best Documentary in a Non-English Language, or Best News Feature. It is not eligible for Best Documentary: Short or Best Serialized Story.

Can I enter a piece that includes fictional elements?

  • The Third Coast/RHDF Competition is aimed to award the best works in nonfiction, and featuring documentary technique. (We know — a person could write a thesis on what that means.) If your nonfiction work contains elements of fiction, or plays along the fuzzy line of fact/fiction, we do encourage you to enter it. (Past winners have included several works that played with the boundaries of fiction and nonfiction, listen here to some examples from 2019!)

Previous Winners

Interested in hearing pieces that have won this category in prior years? Click on the play button button next to some of our most recent winners below.

The Return

Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and his grandparents still live there. But visiting them didn't feel like the home he once knew.