November 8, 2014 by johnnyseifertradio
Earlier this week the Student Radio Association’s (SRA) yearly award ceremony sponsored by BBC Radio 1 and Global Radio took place at London 02 Indigo. I was shortlisted but unfortunately I did not win the category for ‘Best Journalistic Programming for a documentary I produced on the Holocaust to mark seventy years since the liberation from Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The documentary consisted taking five students to Poland to walk around the concentration camps and mass graves. I then multi-tacked this audio with testimonials from seven Auschwitz survivors to document for one of their last times their experiences and what we can do to make sure the Holocaust never happens again which led to 6 million Jewish lives being perished. Tim Johns, BBC Radio 2 who chaired my category said: “In a category (Best Journalistic Programming, Student Radio Awards 2014) so totally packed with remarkable content and talent, Johnny’s entry did something very difficult to achieve: it really stood out. He perfectly balanced the ‘personal’ and the ‘professional’ in a documentary which, for student radio, is astonishingly mature in both its concept and storytelling. Johnny researched and delivered a programme with incredible access to key contributors. But crucially the storytelling mechanism and narrative was so clear that the heartbreaking purpose of the piece was able to have the impact that it rightly should. An incredible piece of student radio.” The Student Radio Awards was a fantastic night and a great way to meet other student radio stations from across the country as well as share dance moves and drinks with industry professionals such as Greg James my radio hero of late.
The Student Radio Association would not exist without the support and advice from The Radio Academy which supports 65 radio stations. Over the past three years whilst being a student at Birmingham City University I was involved with Scratch Radio and would attend The Student Radio Training Days and The Student Radio National Conference. I learnt invaluable lessons which I would not have been luckily to have received without the help of the Radio Academy. In addition, aged sixteen I was a presenter on Radio Brockley, my local hospital radio station in North-West London. Radio Brockley was part of the HBA (Hospital Broadcasting Association). The HBA is supported by the Radio Academy and at the moment has around 230 stations in hospitals around the country. Can you start to see a trend? The Radio Academy has secretly supported the training ground that I have undertaken to get ‘my foot into radio’. As Robin Blamires points out, it has helped to helped me “build contacts and develop relationships within the industry I love”.
This week it was announced that the next level of awards, The Radio Academy Awards (formerly the Sony’s) were being cancelled for 2015 which had cost £427,000 in 2012. The Radio Academy Awards has always been likened to the Oscars for radio. It is supported by all the big radio brands including BBC, Global, UTV and Bauer Media and is a night celebrating radio whilst again being in one place where radio professionals from all over the country get together and let their hair down. I have always seen the Sony’s as important and it was and still is a dream I will always have to win one. Growing up listening to Chris Moyles on BBC Radio 1 I always heard about the awards with Chris wining Gold in 2006 and 2008, Silver in 2010 and finally Bronze in 2009 and 2011.
On paper what does an award mean and what did it mean for me being nominated but not winning an SRA? The award is purely a conversation starter and it is credible to have just been nominated let alone win so what is the fuss? Whilst with some awards there is no money incentive to win, there is no prize other than a piece of glass for the toilet. The issue stems away from the awards and actually what needs to be looked at is the structure of the Radio Academy. The Radio Academy’s mission statement is for the encouragement, recognition and promotion of excellence in UK broadcasting and audio production. Mark Farrington states that the Radio Academy helps to “Opens the doors of the radio industry to future participants” and “Bringing together all areas of the radio industry”. The Academy does this through their annual 30 Under 30 looking at thirty people who are under the age of thirty making a difference to the radio industry; The Radio Hall of Fame looking at the radio greats such as Danny Baker and Tony Blackburn and awards for local radio. Furthermore, the annual radio festival is organised by the body with key speakers across the different specialisms in radio with speakers having a wealth of knowledge to share. So, as the Radio Academy goes so does the education and promotion of radio whereby how will we find out about talent that should have been recognised this way? In addition, as Ann Charles points out, it is a way for the different radio groups to come together in a neutral space so they can discuss the future of the industry. There is always going to be competition between commercial and BBC radio as John Myers has pointed out through his book ‘Team It Is Only Radio!’ However, joint projects need both sets of input such as the UK Radio Player, a shared platform for all radio stations to broadcast on via mobile phones and tablets.
A great point was made by Roy Martin, Radio Today who questioned the possibility of a TV event. We have the Oscars, the Brits, the NTA’s on television so why not show the award ceremony. With no sponsor at the moment, it is more likely a company would sponsor the show knowing it will get exposure on television. However, then the issue comes what television station would show it. It is more likely that the BBC would show it due to having BBC radio stations already providing a great use of synergizing their radio platform but ITV would be needed from a commercial point of view.
What must be looked at is the peverse instentive that the awards hold. Everyone knows that you need to make award winning audio and therefore radio stations and presenters will go that extra step to secure the awards. For the listener this is great compelling audio and its a win-win situation. However, what happens now? Will radio stations try as hard or will we see long sweeps, boring links and no personality as revenue still comes into the station to exist and the presenter does not have an incentive anymore?
Whilst the Radio Academy as a body has not closed yet at the moment, it will be interesting to see how much support the academy will now have in the future. As the news is so fresh it will be interesting to see how this develops over the next week as it gets more and more attention and more and more blogs are written. What ever happens I hope the big bosses see how important it is to champion student radio, hospital radio and recognize talent in the UK.