Recently in Radio Category
Over the weekend, CNN published an interesting US-focused series entitled "The future of music radio" that looked at the current state of play in US music radio.
While the US is very different market to the UK, it would be very complacent of the UK radio industry to completely write off what's happening there.
Do you remember rock 'n' roll radio? - Takes a pretty broad look at the challenges facing radio, and the changes that have been made.
The kings of the radio: All-time great DJs - "US" is missing from the headline, although this is a US site. But a useful primer of who has gone before in American radio.
Radio's last stand - Some audio to accompany the other pieces looking at one of the few major market stations that isn't part of a big group.
Who needs radio? I'll take the Web - Something nobody in radio wants to read. This isn't always true for everyone. But it's true for some.
Clear Channel chief: Technology 'an opportunity, not a risk' - An interview with Bob Pitman of Clear Channel.
You may agree with some of this. You may disagree. But it's worth a read anyway.
And while I'm linking to US radio sites, there was also a very interesting piece examining audio meter usage in the US and contrasting it with things like FitBits and Jawbones - those little tracker meters that you carry around to measure your activity. Given that it's in your own interest to carry the meter to measure your walking and so on, it's scary how little people truly do carry them. The authors wonder whether this is indicative of how many radio hours are being "missed" with people meters.
I've updated the previous entry, but I thought it was worth giving London an entry of its own because not only have I added back a Motion Chart of the London marketplace, but there's significantly more data underlying it than I've managed for the national chart.
Now you can examine the marketplace in lots of sub-demos including age groups, socio-economic class, sex and digital listening.
That all makes for plenty of interesting trends over time. Examine the growth of digital listening in the capital, with Radio 4 leading the way. Or see how once upon a time, Kiss had 15-24s to itself, but in recent times Radio 1 and Capital have improved in this area, while Kiss has seen its share fall. Or see how Radio 4 is serving more 65+ year olds than ever before (well since Q1 2000 when this data starts).
Lots to play with.
And for a bigger-screen experience, look at the larger version.
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 31 March 2013, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they're based on work I've done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.
It has been a big radio week already with the Sony Radio Academy Awards on Monday. And next week will be big with the final Competition Commission ruling on its attempted takeover of GMG's radio assets.
But let's look at the latest RAJAR which is released today.
At first glance this quarter might look less than spectacular with few obvious stories emerging at first glance. But that isn't quite the case.
First up is Radio 2, a station I recently described as a behemoth. And it continues to be just that, with yet another set of record reach and hours this quarter. Nobody really knows if there's any way of stopping it. Chris Evans gets increased figures as a result (up 2.9% on the last quarter) and close to one in three UK radio listeners listen to the station at some point during the week. That's quite scary given the breadth of radio we have on offer in this country.
On the other hand, Radio 1 has had something of a tumble. It's seen reach fall 7.5% on the quarter and 7.9% on the year, but it's also seen time spent listening drop 9.1% on the quarter and a massive 20.1% down on the year. It's one thing if a small station falls to that extent, but Radio 1 is the third most listened to station in the country, so that kind of swing is very significant. Indeed Radio 4 is now bigger than Radio 1 - something that hasn't been the case in the past. And that's not because Radio 4 has grown especially (it's flat on the quarter and up 4.4% on the year). I'll return to Radio 1 in a while.
It may seem self-serving to list my own employer near the top of what I hope is a fairly unbiased report on RAJAR, but it's true to say that the Absolute Radio Network has had some really good figures seeing its overall listening hours reach a record level, up 9.2% on the quarter and 22.6% on the year. To put that in perspective, you'd have to go back to 2001 to find a time when the team at One Golden Square (then Virgin Radio of course) had more hours.
This growth has been driven by its digital stations. Absolute 80s has close to its biggest ever reach and hours, in turn seeing it overtake other large digital commercial stations like The Hits, Smash Hits and Planet Rock. Absolute Radio 90s also has record high figures, and nearly all the other services have contributed. In a week that saw Christian O'Connell pick up two Sony Golds, he's also had a decent increase at breakfast.
Elsewhere Classic FM has had a good quarter, while Talksport has had a so-so one with reasonable hours, but a reach that has now firmly slipped below three million.
Radio 3 has had a decent quarter with double digit growth on the year, while Radio 4's performance has been solid as mentioned above. Five Live has good reach, but time spent listening seems to have fallen off recently. They've just had a bit of a schedule shake-up of course.
6 Music and Radio 4 Extra haven't managed to maintain their reach momentum, although 6 Music's hours are at a record high.
Disappointingly, the gap between the BBC and commercial radio has been widened a bit, with the BBC now having 55.7% of listening compared with commercial radio's 41.9%.
Across the groups, Global is flat on the quarter in terms of listening, while Bauer at first glance seems to have had a good performance, up 4.5% on Q4 2012. However, this growth is due to its new ownership of Planet Rock, and indeed without it, its share would have slipped a fraction.
In the Midlands, the Orion group has turned in decent quarter on quarter numbers, and Jazz FM will be pleased with its hours.
What about breakfast? Well Chris Evans aside, the attention tends to fall on Nick Grimshaw, and the instant novelty of him taking over has rubbed off a little bit. It's early days of course, but he's down just over 900,000 listeners on the previous quarter are 1.3m on Chris Moyles' numbers this time last year. Time spent listening is particularly bad for him year on year - perhaps a product of the vast amount of speech there used to be in Moyles' show.
In London, the correct answer to the question "What is the most listened to breakfast show?" should always be the Today Programme on Radio 4. And that remains the case with very nearly twice as many listeners as its next nearest competitor, Radio 1. Dave and Lisa are just behind that, maintaining their advantage in spite of the station's overall disappointing performance. Heart and Magic have done reasonably, but Kiss is the big faller this time around losing 18% of its audience on the last quarter. Interestingly, Christian O'Connell gets significantly more listening than all his commercial competitors with the exception of Capital despite being further down the table in terms of reach. Those who listen, listen a lot!
Let's get on to digital. The first quarter each year usually sees a decent upturn in digital listening since DAB radios remain a very popular Christmas gift. And that's still true with now 34.3% of all listening being digital, up from 33.0% last quarter. What's more 26 million people or 40% of the population listen to digital radio every week - an increase of 2.6 million on last year.
Last time out, I said that we should keep an eye on internet listening as it jumped up quite a bit. This quarter, for the first time, internet listening has reached 5.0% and is level with digital TV listening. Clearly with lots more smartphone and tablet ownership, along with improved radio apps and streaming services, more and more radio is being delivered over IP.
In London, it hasn't been an altogether good quarter in commercial radio. While All Radio listening is essentially flat (down 0.3% in listening hours on the previous quarter), listening to commercial radio is down 3.4% on the last quarter and 5.0% on the year. The BBC meanwhile has gained some, but not all, of that listening.
That's why we've seen the big London commercial stations all take hits this quarter with Capital, Heart, Kiss and Magic all seeing declines in listening hours, especially if you look at year on year performances.
Global will be especially worried about Capital and Heart. Both have just over 9m hours, but in each case, that represents the lowest listening figure they've ever recorded since the current RAJAR methodology began in 1999. Indeed, in Capital's case, you probably have to go way back into its 40 year history. There are bright shoots over at Xfm, but it's not a good picture.
Indeed, the BBC has overtaken commercial radio in the capital in terms of listening share. While this has happened before, traditionally London has always been stronger for commercial services.
(Interestingly, "Other Radio" listening is up 44% on the quarter in the capital. That is listening to non-RAJAR measured stations including community and internet radio services. It's up on a small base, but "Other Radio" is up from 2.1% of listening to 3.1%)
Let me just return to Radio 1. There's an issue here with its results, and it's something I return to all too often. Radio has to work harder to keep younger listeners because it's losing them. Over the past five years, overall radio listening has stayed essentially flat (up 0.1%), but amongst 15-24 year olds it has fallen 16.9%. And if you look at 15-19 year olds it has fallen further - down 29.4%. The chart below goes back further than 5 years, but you can see the picture.
Look at the same chart for Radio 1 listeners. Over the same last five years, Radio 1 has seen listening fall by 38.1% amongst 15-24s and 40.9% amongst 15-19s.
By the way, I'm certain that both BBC, and indeed commercial groups that have stations that target this demographic, are doing what they can to stem the flow. It's in their interests after all. But we can't pretend that YouTube, Spotify, Rdio and now Google, aren't all having some kind of effect on radio listening. We need to try harder as an industry.
Finally, let's get back to my usual Google Motion Chart which I've updated again.
The first is the national picture. Although I've now increased the space on this blog which allows these charts to be bigger, I'd still recommend that you play with the larger version of the chart.
I've added back a London version of this bubble chart. You may find it easier to use the larger version, but it's worth noting that there are a few more demographics in the London version of the chart including ages and digital listening! So do play with the different variables available and don't just stick with the default state which usefully displays Reach v Reach %.
For more on RAJAR visit:
The official RAJAR site
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Media UK for lots of numbers and charts
One Golden Square for more Absolute Radio details
Paul Easton for analysis
Media Guardian for more news
Matt Deegan usually has plenty to say
And there are always RAJAR Smilies
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 31 March 2013, Adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they're based on work I've done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.
[Amended to correct a fact about Absolute 80s]
So last night in a hot and sweaty room where the tables were just that bit too close together, this year's Sony Awards were handed out.
Absolute Radio did rather well, and I suspect that there may be a few sore heads around the station today.
Most of the press seems to be leading on John Humphrys for his interview that dovetailed into the BBC DG resigning. But I think it's fair to recognise BBC Radio 5 Live as the overall Station of the Year, especially in an Olympic year. I think they really did capture the mood of the nation over those two short weeks.
Eddie Mair's star continues to rise with a win as Best Speech Broadcaster of the Year, and Issy Suttie's comedy win is well worthy of it. There's a new series from her that's just started on Radio 4 which, along with Down The Line being back, is an unmissable comedy strand right now. Richard Herring won bronze incidentally - I think the only non-radio award of the evening.
Richard Park won the Special Award for an incredible run over nearly five decades in radio, while Steve Lamacq won the Gold award for his contribution to music radio.
The Today Programme was somehow adjudged (see, you can use that word outside of football!) better than Christian O'Connell and Chris Evans - not a decision that would be easy to make. Metro won the Battle of Tyneside, and Classic FM won Brand of the Year.
I really don't like new "Sony Golden Headphones" Award - which I'm not sure counts as a Sony Award proper. I suspect that it was introduced to broaden the appeal of the Sonys amongst the public at large. The idea is that it was a popularity contest and every presenter in the country was able to win it. Except that was never the case. It was always going to go to someone on a big station (sorry local commercial radio presenters), and it was always going to go to a winner who could "get out the social media vote" (sorry presenters not fully utilising this or forced to use a station generic Twitter/Facebook account). So the fact that the first winners are Dan & Phil from Radio 1 - perhaps the most "hooked up" presenters on the biggest youth orientated station in the country, isn't a surprise. For all I know, they're brilliant. But popularity contests don't belong in the Sonys. They become the equivalent of the TV Quick awards or something.
The full list of winners is here.
And yes, I'll put up my complete list of winners in the next few days to put it all in perspective over the longer haul.
The Sony Radio Academy Awards are upon us in a week or so's time.
But if you want to get a broader view of who has won what over the years since the awards started in 1983 (and have always been sponsored by Sony)... then you're out of luck.
The official website has details for 2010 to date, but if you want to look further back then you'll be doing well. The previous website is now "closed." But even if you use the Wayback Machine to access snapshots of that site, the old website only goes back to 2005, and the Sonys have been around quite a bit longer than that.
If you search somewhere like Media Guardian, you may find details going a few years further back. But not a great deal further.
The internet will reveal some details here and there. Perhaps the odd radio forum has some details. But it's an incomplete list and often, only the Gold winners are recorded.
Certainly your regular "go to" website - Wikipedia - is exceptionally poor. Probably because like I found, there's really very limited data online.
Perhaps if you've got a complete paper collection of The Radio Magazine, then you might have some better luck. And some back issues of Broadcast magazine may also be of some help.
If you subscribe to the right online services, perhaps you have access to national press reports down the years. But such reports are likely to be incomplete highlighting perhaps just a few big names and not the smaller winners. Even if you broaden the search to local newspapers you're probably looking at quite a gargantuan task.
So broadly speaking, you're out of luck.
Part of me thinks that this is indicative of the poor state of affairs of radio at looking after its own history - David Lloyd aside! And partly it's of the awards not perhaps always getting the coverage they deserve.
So I've been meaning for ages to do something about this.
Sometime back in 2008 I managed to get hold of a paper printout of all the award winners of all the awards made to that date. I've added more recent awards and nominees, and I'm pretty happy the cumulative list is as accurate as anywhere.
This was not an insignificant undertaking, taking many hours. I used that paper list, some bulk scanning, OCR-ing, and a lot manual correction. And I had to wrangle all that data into some kind of sensible and useful format. You can understand why I've been "sitting" on that list for quite some time. However, I've come to the point where I'm happy with my database.
But I can't be certain, and there may be errors in it.
I may have transcribed something wrongly, or I may be missing data. I've tried to put stations into groups, but that's not necessarily completely accurate since ownership structures change (and I'm therefore avoiding summarising wins by groups accordingly).
Stations change names too - sometimes quite a great deal. I've used the names as they were originally stated aside from some cleaning up to overcome "branding" exercises. So once it had been given the "Live" soubriquet, I've called it "BBC Radio 5 Live" rather than "BBC Radio Five Live" as it was known for a while. On the otherhand BBC Radio 5 continues to exist on its own. I've tried to be consistent with uppercase "FM"s even when there were phases when marketing departments loved the lowercase "fm".
But do let me know if you spot any howling errors once I put the whole thing up.
I can't claim to be an expert on the Sony Awards. I've only watched from afar, and have little detail about how they're run and judged. But for most of their history, Gold, Silver and Bronze awards have been made in most categories. The exceptions tend to be the "big" awards such as the various "Station of the Year" awards where only a Gold is handed out. Runners up are simply "Nominees" in those instances.
However in the data that I was able to collate, I only have a note of the Gold awards for the first couple of years. It may be that on a single winner was handed out per category at that time. I'm not sure. But it's only in 1985 that I have a note of Silver and Bronze awards as well.
And aside from some commendations, I only have details of the full lists of nominees and not just winners, from 2000. So there are probably quite a few nominees missing.
Today if you visit the official website, there are enormously full lists of every producer and assistant responsible for any nominated show. But that certainly hasn't been the case for all that long, at least in the records that I've obtained. I've collated a "Production" category, but with the exception of a few IRNs and BBC Externals, it's only from 1992 onwards that a few independent production companies' names start creeping in. Around the same time, some BBC department names, and notably, commercial radio news teams, get credited for productions.
Of course these aren't in any way consistent over time. In particular, BBC internal departments seem to be named according to the whim of whichever individual put the entry in. And that's before you take account of those departments regularly changing names semi-regularly.
It's also not always clear whether a person has received a Gold Award for their work in either BBC Radio or commercial radio, or just radio in general. Sometimes the person has only worked in one place, but these days many have stepped across the line, and may well have started out on commercial radio. Either way, some awards aren't categorised as either BBC or Commercial wins.
So having collated all this data, what does it tell us?
Richard Park won Local Radio Personality of the Year on Radio Clyde in the very first Sony Awards back in 1983. I wonder whatever happened to him?
Other things to note from that very first set of awards: Terry Wogan won Best Popular Music Programme, while Woman's Hour won Best Magazine Programme and The World This Weekend won Best Current Affairs Programme. So some things in radio never change.
Radio Active won Best Light Entertainment Programme, and Sue MacGregor and Brian Johnston won, respectively, Female and Male Personalities of the Year.
It must be said that 1983 was fairly dominated by the BBC. Only Piccadilly Radio, Radio Clyde, both with two awards and Essex Radio and Radio City, each with one, broke the stranglehold.
The other Radio Clyde award, though, was for Best Actress reminding us that once upon a time, commercial radio did actually do drama!
The number of drama awards has decreased over time, but I can't help noticing that having Best Actor and Actress categories did allow some very big names to win awards and, one would imagine, add some glamour to some evenings. Glenda Jackson, Joss Ackland, Tim Piggot Smith, Jane Asher, Anna Massey, Patricia Routledge, Ronald Pickup, Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson and Billie Whitelaw all won awards during the first few years of the Sonys.
One of the things people often note about the Sonys is the number of awards. This chart suggests that they're probably right (although any joint awards are double-counted in this instance). Last year, the number of awards dropped though.
Incidentally, given that the number of awards is criticised so often by some media coverage, I thought I'd look at how many BAFTA TV Awards there are this year. After all, they get presented the night before the Sony's. This year there are 26 awards on the night compared with radio's 28 named awards (although I suspect that there'll be a Gold Award and possibly another special award on the night). However BAFTA also has the Craft awards which have just been awarded - that's another 20 awards.
But how do those awards breakdown between the BBC and Commercial Radio?
Well clearly, the awards are more level pegging these days, and the gap is being closed. As I mentioned, the "unstated" are simply awards made to people above and beyond BBC or Commercial considerations. There have also been the odd joint award between BBC and Commercial that has been ignored here.
If we look at the most successful stations over time, there's one thing that stands out - Radio 4 has a lot of Sonys.
Note that I've only considered Golds here, and awards shared across more than one station have been ignored. I've also left brands alone. Virgin Radio and Absolute Radio would jump up the list if they were a single brand for example.
It does look like Radio 4 is winning slightly fewer awards per year over time though.
What else does a deep dig reveal?
Radio City does well in the early years with Clive Tyldesley winning on a couple of occasions for sport. These days, he's ITV's lead football commentator.
The Local Radio Personality of the Year in 1985 was Allan Beswick on Red Rose Radio. 28 years later, he's still in the north west, now presenting breakfast on BBC Radio Manchester. In 1985, Beswick pipped James Whale to the post - Whale won a silver for his Radio Aire show.
And yes, we do still remember the short stint when it was simulcast on ITV!
From the start there had been an award for Local DJ of the Year. But clearly that discriminated against Radio 1 presenters. So in 1986 the National DJ of the Year category was invented. The problem was that it became an exclusive competition between Radio 1 jocks. I guess that theoretically Radio 2 presenters might have entered, but they probably didn't even consider themselves "DJs" at that time.
In 1987 Mike Smith won Gold, doing the double in 1988 (by which time it was sponsored by Smash Hits). In 1989 and 1990 Bruno Brookes won, before Simon Mayo won in 1991 and 1992. So while it wasn't quite simply a reflection of who was presenting the Radio 1 breakfast show at the time, it was a good indicator.
It wasn't until 1989 that an award for the Best Breakfast Show was first introduced. The initial award saw Les Ross beat Chris Tarrant and Dave Bussey to the Gold.
In 1991 Network Africa on the BBC World Service for Africa beat Chris Tarrant to the Gold in what must have been an extraordinary decision to have to make. Perhaps it wasn't then surprising that by 1992 the award had been broken up into music and speech based categories.
But by 1993, the INRs had begun to launch with Classic FM first out of the blocks. In a curious amendment to the breakfast show awards, music was further split into "contemporary music" and "non-contemporary" music. Somehow Classic FM managed to win Gold and Silver in that category. "Non-contemporary" only lasted another year before the award reverted to a simple speech and music delineation.
In the early years, split awards were relatively frequent. But sometime in the last ten years or so, stricter rules seem to have been applied, and there's only one winner per category nowadays. In any case, the rules were clearly a little arbitrary before. Sometimes if two Golds were handed out, then there'd be no Silver and just a Bronze. But other times, essentially four stations would be handed awards.
By the start of the 1990s following the split of AM and FM into separate services on local commercial radio, we begin to see the "Gold" services win awards. Piccadilly Radio 1152 and Capital Gold were early winners.
Lots of names of stations that are no longer with us. London Talkback Radio anyone? (It was one of LBC's myriad of ill-fated name changes in the late 80s and early 90s before they sensibly returned to calling themselves LBC).
The first Station of the Year award was made in 1989 when BRMB won, beating BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Foyle. What's odd is that there was no national station of the year until later. I assume that's because it'd have been a competition between BBC stations - a clearly impossible comparison that perhaps the BBC wasn't keen to make. Again we had to wait until just before the INRs started in 1992/3 for Wear FM to win an overall "Station of the Year" award beating out Clyde 2 and BBC Radio Newcastle. LAter, of course, delineations between station sizes were made.
From the beginning of the Sony's there was clearly a need to make some "Lifetime Achievement" types of awards to longstanding people within the radio industry. I'd have thought that "Lifetime Achievement" might have been a good title. But no, the title chosen that just tripped off the tongue was "Sony Gold for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Over the Years."
Yes - "Over the Years!"
The winners, however, were rather fine. Between 1983 and 1990 awards were handed to Frank Muir and Denis Norden, David Jacobs, BFBS, John Timpson, The Archers, Gerard Mansell (who created Radio 4), Tony Blackburn and Roy Hudd.
They later came up with better names for the award, and today we know it as The Gold Award.
Categories have been and gone in the Sonys. Quite a lot in fact. I don't think a single category has been unchanged in the history of the awards. 1991 saw the last Children's Programming Award at a time when BBC Radio 5 was one of the few places children could get radio. These days it's either Fun Kids or the internet of course.
And the Internet Award ran from 2007 until 2012, but has been scrapped this year, not a popular move amongst podcasters who now have to compete in the main categories should they choose to enter.
We do have the first "Brand of the Year" Award this year of course - something which I'm sure listeners will be very excited about.
If you talk to anyone about talent in UK radio, then a couple names show up all the time: Kenny Everett and John Peel.
So how kind have the Sony's been to them over all that time?
During the time that he could have won Sony Awards, Everett was broadcasting with Radio 2, Capital Radio and Capital Gold (after they split frequencies) through until 1994. But the first award he got was a Bronze in 1991 for his Capital Gold show for Best Sequence Programme (Jeff Owen on BBC Radio Nottingham won Gold, with John Dunn's Radio 2 show getting the Silver).
Then in 1994, as his broadcast career ended he was given the "Gold Award for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Over the Years."
And that's it. He's actually won more posthumously - with a further three based on archive material
John Peel has had a longer radio career starting with the birth of Radio 1 and continuing with the BBC until his death in 2004.
Peel won his first award in 1986 picking up the first National DJ of the Year. But it was another seven years before he won National Broadcaster of the Year in 1993. He then had to wait until 1999 when he won Silver for Talk/News Broadcaster of the Year and Gold for Home Truths. Home Truths also won Gold for Short Form Audio that year as well as the Weekend Talk/News Award.
He was nominated for Home Truths as Speech Broadcaster of the Year in 2001, and won The Gold Award in 2002.
In 2007 he posthumously also collected an award - The Broadcaster's Broadcaster Award.
So Peel was probably more honoured than Everett, although it seems more for Home Truths than his long running Radio 1 music programmes.
I'm probably being a little unfair here as it's always easier to have twenty-twenty hindsight. But perhaps even our industry doesn't really appreciate who we have while we have them.
Here's a nice tough trivia question. Which TV programme won a Sony Radio Award?
It was Blue by Derek Jarman in 1994 which was a Channel 4/BBC Radio 3 simulcast and won a Gold Drama Award. Jarman died in early 1994, probably before he received this award.
Back then few of us would have had stereo TVs, so you could tune in for a fuller soundscape on your FM radio. The picture was simply a blue screen the whole way through (Can you even begin to comprehend Channel 4 doing something like that today?). Blue is available on DVD.
One of my favourite comedy programmes of all time is On The Hour - the radio spoof from Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci et al, that would turn into The Day Today on television. In 1992 it won Silver, and was beaten by a BBC Radio Ulster programme (Perforated Ulster) in the Best Comedy/Light Entertainment Programme category. But On The Hour also introduced the world to Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge, and his spin-off series, Knowing Me, Knowing You won Gold the following year. It also headed to TV like so many radio comedies. Alan, of course, gets his own film based around his current station, North Norfolk Digital, later this year.
Virgin Radio got their first award in 1995 - a Silver for Russ & Jono in the "Breakfast Show: Music Based." They were beaten by Sarah Kennedy on Radio 2. Talk Radio won its first award - a Bronze - in 1996 with "There's Only One Gary Newbon" in the Response to a News Event category. Quite what that event was, I don't know.
The 1996 "Breakfast Show: Music Based" award is interesting because it features - in order - three Virgin Radio breakfast shows in a row. Gold that year went to Russ & Jono, the incumbents on Virgin. Silver went to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show who at the time was still on Radio 1 (Evans would join Virgin and take over breakfast of course). And Bronze went to the Steve Penk Breakfast Show on Key 103. When Evans was fired by Virgin, Penk stepped in to take over breakfast.
And while I'm talking about Virgin Radio, I can't help but note that in 2000 it managed to beat Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to the punch, being the first broadcast outlet to give away that much cash. But it still only managed to get a nomination in the competition category. The million pounds was also delivered outside a RAJAR period just to indicate how poorly conceived the plan was!
At the turn of the millennium, another new and interesting development started. In 2001 we got The 2000 Award - going to Terry Wogan. This was followed by the 2001 Award in 2002 and 2002 Award in 2003. Sometime around then, the madness stopped.
While it's clear that the categories awarded in the Sony's have been changed over time to make sure that there's a fairer split across different types of stations, you can't help feeling that news and speech based breakfast shows always feel that they're on a hiding to nothing when it comes to The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4.
But is that actually the case? Could it be possible that the excellence and journalistic resource that the programme has works against it? This is a list of all the Gold Awards that Today specifically has won over the last thirty years.
Best Current Affairs 1984, 1989
Best Response to a News Event 1989, 1990, 1994
Best Daily News Programme 1990
Best Breakfast Show: Speech Based 1992, 1995
News Award 1998 (shared)
News Coverage Award 2003
The Breakfast Show Award 2007
News Journalist of the Year 2007 (John Humphrys)
Breakfast Show of the Year 10m+ 2010
That's only 13 Gold awards which is probably surprisingly few all things considered.
(Note that others may have won awards for work partly carried out on Today, but I'm considering programme specific awards here).
To put this in perspective, I think PM has only won about four specific Gold awards over the same time. And I've not even looked at The World at One.
Here's another piece of trivia. Did you know the current editor of The Sun has a Sony Gold? Dominic Mohan has one for a 2003 Virgin Radio special on The Who.
A couple of notes:
I'm not aware that a record of the award winners is in any way copyright, but obviously I do not wish to tread on anybody else's toes. The awards did for many years belong to Zafer Associates, and they've recently been passed over to the Radio Academy. I'm not aware of any value in the data, and most of it is in the public domain (albeit, really hard to get hold of as I've said). Finding past BAFTA TV winners isn't as hard, although even Wikipedia entries trail off in the mid-nineties.
Nonetheless, I've not put the entire database - yet. Although post the 2013 awards, I will do so.
Please shout if you believe that this is not a good thing.
At least then, some diligent individuals can populate Wikipedia (I can't be bothered as getting the data this clean has taken me far too long). And we can continue to shout from the rooftops about great radio.
Today is the 20th anniversary of Virgin Radio. It launched at 12.15pm on Friday 30th April 1993 with Richard Branson joining Russ and Jono at the Virgin Megastore in Manchester. But Richard Skinner was back in the studio and played in the first track - a specially recorded version of Born To Be Wild by INXS. For legal reasons we're limited in what we can say about this on-air today, and in any case, we changed brands back in 2008, but there have been plenty of celebrations of Russ Williams' twenty years at One Golden Square.
However this is my blog, so I can dig out some old photos from the early years of Russ - usually with Jono.
And I've uploaded the launch audio to Audioboo. (David Lloyd's Audioboo channel is an absolute mine of superb radio, but I think this is cleaner audio since it wasn't recorded off-air!).
Happy twentieth Russ!
For the avoidance of doubt, this is a personal blog, and these are personal views. The fact that I work at the same station is neither here nor there.
In 1973, commercial radio launched with LBC, Capital Radio and Radio Clyde all launching within weeks of one another.
So this year is commerical radio's 40th anniversary, and RadioCentre is celebrating with a Roll of Honour featuring forty names, which will be announced at this year's Arqiva Awards in July.
Initial inductions were made last year, and nominations are now being sought for the remaining places. RadioCentre is looking for individuals who have made a significant contribution to commercial radio over the last forty years - both in front and behind the microphone.
A committee will determine the final list, but they're looking for a wide range of names to whittle down.
"The Roll of Honour will be made up of individuals who reflect significant milestones in the industry's development, taking in advertisers, artists, bands, moguls, power brokers and DJs. The emphasis will be on people whose contribution helps tell the story of commercial radio and the final list will not be ranked."
I'm sure they'll appreciate a wide and varied list from which to make their choices.
Make your nominations at http://www.radiocentre.org/facts/40th-anniversary. The closing date for submissions is 30th April 2013.
I wrote this piece for the Onegoldensquare blog, but I thought I might as well post it here for completeness!
This week, the 2013 award nominations were announced, and we've already mentioned in passing that we got a few. This year, there are a few new categories, and the disappearance of a few older ones.
While some of the bigger categories get lots of attention, I'm going to wander a little further beyond the impossible task of determining whether Chris Evans or Christian O'Connell somehow has a "better" breakfast show than John Humphrys.
A common complaint heard from some in commercial radio is that the awards are totally biased towards the BBC. I tend to believe that the rewards give recognition to really good radio, and any station, big or small can make good radio. But even in categories where the BBC would seem to have an innate advantage, there are some interesting nominations from the commercial world.
So in the Best Speech Programme category, ex-MP Iain Dale gets nominated for his LBC show. He's recently been rewarded by being promoted to the teatime slot on the station and in a recent interview on the Media Guardian podcast, he expressed how much radio had changed him. He's taken to it really quickly and has become an accomplished broadcaster.
One of Dale's competitors in that category is the excellent Listening Project presented by Fi Glover on Radio 4. This is oral history at its very best, and is a partnership with the British Library. The premise is incredibly simple: two close friends or relatives simply have a conversation about something important to them, and it's recorded. The scale is ambitious, with the BBC utilising its local radio network to broaden out a project that's now been running for more than a year.
And LBC also contends the Best News & Current Affairs Programme where it is up against a set of BBC nominees. I wanted to highlight another nominee, Newshour from the BBC World Service. One of the best things about digital radio is that we all now have access to the World Service without having to listen to Radio 4 in the small hours or tune in via shortwave radios (Incidentally, with shortwave transmitters slowly being decommissioned, I wonder how much longer the actual Sony awards will continue to be modelled on the iconic Sony SWF 7600 shortwave radio?).
While we have 24 hour news channels like Sky News and BBC News, and Radio 4 and Five Live do excellent jobs with their news programming, it's only when you listen to a programme like Newshour that you realise just how parochial much of the news we get really is.
Speech Radio Broadcaster of the Year is a an all-BBC shortlist, and while Victoria Derbyshire, 2012's winner in the category, is nominated again and is up against fellow Five Liver presenter, and recent Hall of Fame inductee, Danny Baker, it's Eddie Mair who's the man of the moment. Following his spectacular interview with Boris Johnson on TV recently, and his deft handling of Newsnight reporting about itself, he's suddenly popped up on everyone's radar. But regular listeners to him on PM, and perhaps even more so on Saturday PM, will appreciate his ever-so-slightly wry and knowing presenting style.
The Best Comedy Category is another award that might be considered to be a BBC shoe-in. They certainly make an awful lot of comedy, and with people like Meera Syal, Isy Suttie and John Finnemore (not nominated for the brilliant Cabin Pressure, but for his Souvenir Programme), they aren't short of nominees. But also in the mix is Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre podcast. There was some criticism when the Radio Academy dropped the podcast awards this year, so it's good to see that a podcast has been nominated in a "mainstream" category.
Recorded live, these are long-form interviews with comedians, writers, performers and whoever he can get along. But they're all big names: from Jonathan Ross to Armando Ianucci, and from David Mitchell to Russell Howard. I think of it as a Richard Herring chatshow where he doesn't have to worry about having three other guests in the green room or on the sofa. Well worth a listen if you haven't discovered it.
In the Best Use of Multiplatform, Absolute Radio's InStream offering is nominated. But if you've not had a chance to explore it, what the BBC has done with its archive of Alistair Cooke's Letters From America is awesome. There are over 900 episodes digitised and available to listen to, with more being found all the time.
There's lots of radio on that shortlist, and few of us can claim to have really heard much of it. But the great thing is that we have RadioPlayer, and so using the shortlist as a starting point, it's an excellent opportunity to discover just what is going on in Newcastle that has led to the big two local stations- Metro and BBC Newcastle - being up against one another for Station of the Year (with Fun Kids!); that somebody is still doing speech on a predominantly music radio station (Newcastle again); or discover that radio does actually cover Rugby League!
Roll on 13th May when the winners are announced.
Bank Holidays at radio stations tend to mean the regular talent getting the day off. If it's Christmas, then they may get a full fortnight away.
Listening patterns are different at Bank Holidays. People don't get up as early since they don't need to get to work. They're more likely to be traveling - seeing friends and family - as anyone who spent today on a motorway or at a mainline train station can attest.
So radio stations behave differently, and an old favourite is the listener top 100 or 500 countdown. It may be tracks, artists or albums that are being counted down. It might be a broad subject (songs of all time) or it might be based on a narrow list (albums from the last ten years).
The regular playlist tends to get ditched and large parts of the day are handed over to a countdown probably determined by some kind of listener vote. Invariably the list being counted down is probably close to the usual fare. Stations aren't trying to completely disenfranchise listeners.
The idea is to generate an event. It's a cheap and easy way to push listening hours. It's all your favourites, and there won't be any repetition!
All well and good.*
But don't mistake this for actually being important. Listeners to certain stations tend to vote in certain ways. A BBC 6Music countdown will be different to a Capital FM countdown.
So it's always a bit irritating when, even though it's a slow news day, the BBC somehow promotes one of these lists as being somehow newsworthy.
Today we have Radio 2 listeners voting Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head as being their favourite of all time. And this is on the BBC News website.
Now aside from clearly all having long-term memory losses, this tells us nothing of importance. This isn't a statistically robust poll carried out by a research company. It's a self-selecting sample of listeners to a particular radio station making their choices.
It's irrelevant in a wider context.
Should Radio 2 go to town on their station about the results on their own station? Absolutely.
Should they put the results on the Radio 2 website? Certainly.
Should the "news" of the poll winner be published on the BBC News website (even in the Entertainment section)? No. It's not news.
If this were a one-off, then I wouldn't mind. But the BBC did the same thing back in February when 6 Music listeners were voting their favourite track of the last ten years. Coldplay won that vote too.
Over on Classic FM, they're having their annual Hall of Fame countdown too (Will it be Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto again? Probably**). I rather suspect that the "winner" won't be on the BBC News site later. Yet the results of their poll are about as relevant - or irrelevant - as the Radio 2's poll.
And I'm sure that up and down the country other radio stations have been playing their own lists out over the Easter period.
As far as news goes, these things are no more newsworthy than the results of self-selecting online polls on websites. Fun, but nothing more.
* I say "well and good", but I do think they're a bit lazy and long in the tooth, although I will admit that on some stations, they're fondly looked forward to amongst listeners, in the same way as I once upon a time used to care about the weekly charts.
** And it was. Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 has won 8 of the 18 polls that Classic FM has run since 1996, including the last three.
Here's a curious thing.
The Guardian has a regular "In Praise Of..." column on its leader page where rather than just moaning about things, it'll sometimes, well, praise something. It's quite a refreshing change to read something positive in that part of the paper.
Last night, I saw the column above published online, and while I was going to mention it being a little odd, I just put it down to the fact that The Guardian has quite a sizeable US operation, and that's what I must be reading.
So when I saw the column in print in the very much British print edition of the paper (see photo above), I was perplexed.
In praise of... satellite radio starts by referencing a music festival in Dawson City, Canada, and a weather report from Hobart, Tasmania. The online piece links directly to relevant websites.
At first I thought that whoever wrote this really did mean "satellite" radio. In the UK, we have a very limited view of satellite radio. It's mostly national BBC and commercial stations with a few local services and a number of niche stations aimed at minorities of one type or another.
In the US, subscription satellite radio is quite a decent success - in terms of subscriber numbers anyway. SiriusXM has a broad range of services, many of them exclusive to the satellite service, all available for a fee. Small Canadian and Australian stations are notable by their absence though.
So what on earth is this piece talking about?
Do they mean "internet" radio? I think they might.
I suspect that even if you've never listened to the radio via the internet, you probably have a vague notion that it comes down the same wire that your internet connection does. As opposed to coming from a large metal object orbiting at 22,000 miles above the surface of the earth.
The piece ends, "Sure, Radio 4 in the background provides a homely sustenance; but there's an entire world out there to listen to." And I wouldn't disagree for a moment. But that's not satellite radio.