Sony Awards Redux

Listening to this week’s Radio Academy RadioTalk, I heard Talksport programme director Moz Dee and Media UK’s James Cridland talking about potential changes to the Sony Radio Academy Radio Awards (Thanks for the shoutout James!).
There’s always a feeling that the ceremony goes on too long. And it is a long awards’ ceremony. Although if you can point me to an awards ceremony that people don’t think is too long, then I’d like to know what it is.
Here are a few things that the Radio Academy could easily do to speed things up:
1. Run the awards straight through uninterrupted. Currently there’s an hour long break in the middle of the awards for the assembled masses to have a meal. Have the meal earlier, and then kick off the awards at about 7.30pm.
2. Have fewer guests handing out a couple of awards each. The selection of the assorted great and good that hands out the awards can be a bit, er, random (lovely people though they are, did we really need both presenters from Sky News’ Sunrise TV programme?). Fewer, higher calibre guests handing out a couple of awards each would save all those entrances and exits.
3. Don’t run a charity auction in the middle of the event. Sorry, but this was ill-judged at a time when many are either losing their jobs in the industry, or having to accept minimal – if any – pay rises. Yes, we know some of the “talent” in the room is vastly (and rightly) recompensed. But that room also has a lot of producers and programme makers who aren’t able to blow £20,000 on a golf jolly. Save that for an event which isn’t being webcast to the assorted masses back in radio stations up and down the country.
James Cridland’s idea of televising the awards is an interesting one (the Oliviers got the red button treatment this year, and the Folk Awards similarly appear on interactive), although I’m not sure that the fact that some famous people get awards is reason enough to put it on TV.
As ever, there are always discussions about which awards should or shouldn’t be included. Best Use of Multiplatform made a comeback this year. Moz Dee argues strongly for the removal of the Drama award. That’s because nobody aside from the BBC can be bothered with this form of radio.
Just because commercial radio doesn’t try in a category, that doesn’t mean an award should be ditched.
I’ve just calculated that 6.4m of Radio 4’s 10.8m audience listen to at least some of the drama that station broadcasts each week (RAJAR Q1 2011). That’s an awful lot of radio drama. And I have news: it’s not just the BBC that can win those awards. There are a string of independent production companies producing drama. And while I’m not precisely clear on the rules surrounding inclusion in the awards, it’s worth noting that there’s an awful lot of radio drama being produced outside of the radio system. Look at a company like Big Finish who produce vast quantities of science fiction drama for example.
If we’re not going to include drama, how about comedy? Only the BBC made the shortlist this year. Commercial radio does “funny”, but it tends not to be in half-hour chunks. But again, that’s its own choice.
Best Feature is another all BBC category this year. Yet it consistently recognises some of the most challenging and innovative radio of all. Should we ditch that because a feature on commercial radio tends to last no more than 30 seconds?
Personally, I think that we’ve got the mix of awards about right. It’s up to stations to raise their game to be able to grab the awards that are on offer. A commercial station won Best News Special taking on the might of the BBC, as well as other key categories like Music Personality and Station of the Year. So it’s achievable.
If the categories need broadening to be fully inclusive, then so be it.
One award that does need changing is the DAB Rising Star Award. The public vote has just become a popularity contest amongst big names that can get the vote out. This year that meant Robbie Savage, the 5 Live presenter, Derby County player (latterly) and the man with upwards of 300,000 Twitter followers, versus Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood with his worldwide fanbase. Simon Conway of Metro Radio, Sarah Thompson of Filthy Disco on Roundhouse Radio, and, to an extent, Radio 1’s Matt Edmondson never really stood a chance. I must admit that I’m not a fan of public votes for awards. There’s a reason we have both the National TV Awards and the BAFTAs. And there’s a reason that the former awards are not going to sit as highly on someone’s CV as the latter.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer. Indeed, I obviously work for a commercial radio station while I’m defending the BBC to an extent here.

6 Comments

  1. Answer Me This won the podcast award. Mind you, I do wonder how many podcasts are actually put up for the award. It costs money to enter, so it perhaps puts some people off…

  2. Forget TV coverage for the awards, why not simulcast them as a radio event? They’d sit comfortably on a R2 or 5Live evening perhaps, or on a networked ILR show for commercial radio stations to opt in to. Add a bit of decent commentary (I’m thinking of Ken Bruce at Eurovision here, a little tongue in cheek maybe) and some backstage interviews – voila!

  3. Is it really too much to ask that we spend one night a year in a posh hotel to acknowledge the best work and the greatest talents in radio?
    The show is long but it’s hardly torture.

  4. My feelings about speeding the event along are more to counter the criticism regularly heard that the awards are too long. That’s really a function of starting them at 7.30pm, taking a long break in the middle for a meal, and meaning that 11.00pm is long gone when the final awards are handed out.
    Steve, I think I’d replace “posh” with “big” in your line above.
    But yes, awards are aimed at the recipients, not people who attend dozens of these things and find them otherwise a bit dull. And they are for the industry to celebrate itself as much as anything. Although a Sony win can alert audiences to a show’s existance (I bet most people didn’t know that Ronnie Wood even had a radio show, or that Frank Skinner had one), we’re not quite the Oscars where a win means something to print on the DVD cover.
    I tend to think that running them on the TV doesn’t seem quite right. An interesting idea might be to broadcast them on a “pop-up” radio station on DAB and the internet though…
    But I’ll reiterate that I think overall the number of awards and categories are about right now and don’t need significant pruning. The exception remaining the Rising Star.

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