Media: Sony gongs reflect the true state of British radio

This year the Sony Radio Awards ceremony - the industry’s Oscars - was switched to the evening for the first time, instead of midday. The move symbolised the way the industry has grown up in the past 15 years and broken away from the strait-laced domination of the BBC. There were four messages from the event. First, the organisers desperately need to examine their PR effort. I thought awards ceremonies were about honouring the best, and trumpeting their achievements to the outside world.

This year the Sony Radio Awards ceremony - the industry’s Oscars -

was switched to the evening for the first time, instead of midday. The

move symbolised the way the industry has grown up in the past 15 years

and broken away from the strait-laced domination of the BBC. There were

four messages from the event. First, the organisers desperately need to

examine their PR effort. I thought awards ceremonies were about

honouring the best, and trumpeting their achievements to the outside

world.



This huge event got far less coverage than it deserved because the

organisers refused to issue a list of winners, under embargo, even at

7pm as the five-hour event got underway. Radio news journalists got no

help in preparing packages for their networks. The sight of the PA

reporter (with client regional newspapers clamouring for results)

pleading for assistance in vain was bizarre. I can’t remember a less

media-friendly event.



Secondly, it was a grim night for Radio 4 which hardly figured in the

awards: none of its daily news programmes won a thing - the Today

programme wasn’t even nominated. This suggests that the new controller

James Boyle and his task force of commissioning editors has its work cut

out.



Thirdly, there is a definite sea change in attitudes, sweeping ’oldie’

presenters back into fashion. How else to explain the awards for Jimmy

Young and Alan Freeman. This is not just sentiment. The Chris Evans

effect seems to have faded.



Fourth, it is clear that the best commercial stations are really coming

into their own. Classic FM, under firm new professional management by

radio group GWR, was named Station of the Year for the second time in

four years. Virgin won two awards. Which brings me finally to the

backdrop to the event: Capital Radio’s pounds 64.7 million proposed

takeover of Virgin Radio, a deal which includes its national AM service

and FM London licence.



This move, a symbol of the consolidation taking place across the sector,

can only be a good thing. Virgin will benefit from the backing of the

UK’s most experienced commercial radio company and Capital needs the

challenge of a national station. It will remain well under the 15 per

cent ownership limit. And the loose terms of Virgin’s ’pop and rock’

national licence will most certainly allow it to refocus the output and

go straight into battle with Radio 1. Crucially, Capital also now has

the incentive to throw its weight behind digital audio broadcasting,

which will eventually transform the quality of signals. The most recent

RAJAR audience trends show encouraging signs that radio listening is

finally going up. Perhaps ailing, disappointing Talk Radio will be next

in line for some professional loving care.



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