History of the Third Coast/RHDF Competition


The Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition (lovingly nicknamed the "Oscars of Radio") has awarded the most groundbreaking and influential documentary work in the audio storytelling industry thanks to the generous support of our founding supporter, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Throughout its 22-year history, the TC/RHDF Competition has become a living archive of work that adapts, responds to, and reflects changes in the field and in our world. While the Competition is one of the longest-running audio competitions in the world, Third Coast takes particular pride in recognizing work that complicates or questions what has come before, and pushes the medium forward.

Third Coast/RHDF Competition Evolutions

In 2001, the TC/RHDF Competition was created by Third Coast Co-Founders Johanna Zorn & Julie Shapiro, and honored its first set of award-winning stories. Supported by a grant from the late Mr. Driehaus, the competition was the first of its kind to acknowledge audio as a distinct art form, and to celebrate a medium’s evolutions in real time.

The Competition has long celebrated the boundary-pushing nature of the medium, and the array of artistry it could contain. In 2011, Third Coast honored the first award winner made in a podcast-first format. In 2015, Ira Glass inspired the Skylarking award to recognize the most compelling narrative audio stories that followed narrative threads for fun. In 2016, former Artistic Director Sarah Geis introduced the Best Documentary: Foreign Language award — now the Best Documentary: Non-English Language (BDNEL) award — to honor the incredible work being made around the world in languages other than English.

Over the years, the TC/RHDF Competition has elevated several works that pushed the boundaries of the form in blurring fact and fiction, and introduced two new categories in 2020 that expanded — Audio Unbound and Best Documentary: Short — that created space for the emergence of exceptional audio work that had previously gone under-recognized in our competition.

In the 2022 Competition, Third Coast is proud to accept work in any language in every category, and to recognize the incredible experimentation, innovation, and elevation of craft happening across the world.