Written by Radio

Sony Radio Academy Radio Award Nominations 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.
So listen to Cooke in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of JFK, the US Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs Wade, or the Watergate scandal. It’s all a remarkable resource.
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.