The following stations were declared winners in their branch before going forward as the entrants to the national 2009 Sony Radio Academy Awards – Station of the Year Category (TSA under 300,000).
Scotland – Central FM
The judges thought Central FM’s entry was outstanding. Their Breakfast Show connected well with the audience and both presenters showed enthusiasm and passion for radio. The selection of other items from the station’s output gave a clear impression of a local radio station that understood its audience and worked hard to provide imaginative and relevant programming. In particular, the backup material the station provided showed effort and imagination, and many of the ideas and campaigns were original and well thought-out. Much bigger stations could learn a lot from Central FM’s approach. (Press)
Wales – Coast 96.3 FM
Coast 96.3 has a confident and warm feeling to its broadcasting, and tries to respond to the need to go out and meet its listeners. The half hour compilation entry though, showed a station with a real passion and connection to its local audience, not afraid to try new things and offer a genuine alternative. The presentation and production was witty and fast paced and it felt like a station that super served its audience. (Press)
Northern Ireland – BBC Radio Foyle
East Anglia – Star Radio Cambridge
The audience is high; the output is well-targeted and very local/community orientated without being parochial and amateur; there is a real professional polish to the production and sound of the station; and the content is engaging, imaginative and creative. They’ve identified a clear position in the market as the station that cares most about the community and everything is consistently geared towards this. I particularly liked the way they executed their Charity of the Month feature using a package of on air and web initiatives to promote 12 local charities throughout the year.
East Midlands – Rutland Radio
Rutland Radio had a lot of content on the air which was very locally relevant to the listeners within its TSA. The station’s production values were very good all round. All stations were notable for their involvement in the community, but Rutland demonstrated a great variety of involvement – not only out and about in the community, but with their inclusion of listeners on the air. (Press)
London – Life FM (now Bang Radio)
The judges felt that the output they heard demonstrated that it is possible to achieve a high level of local awareness without sounding parochial – citing, as the best example of this, a feature called ‘Battle of the Brands’, which pitted local businesses against each other for a chance to win some free advertising: the judges felt that this was an excellent mechanic for building listener loyalty, and very well executed. (Press)
Midlands – Beacon Radio Shropshire
The station demonstrates a good sense of locality with a small but committed team. The news coverage shows an excellent awareness of the priorities of the region and the news team emerges with great credit for their ‘Newsnight Specials’ which, also, reflect the concerns of the area. The presenters relate well with their audience showing a real commitment to be out and about in the region.
North East – Durham FM
Durham FM seemed very much involved within the fabric of the city and the county. The breakfast show was lively and local with good local news although it lacked a top local story; the rest hit the mark for the 25-44 target audience. The sport was good for the audience, and the entertainment value was high during breakfast with some good stories along with informative traffic and travel. During the rest the output they are continually under the skin of the listeners with outside broadcasts and other promotions within their TSA.
North West – Silk FM
The station was a really creative, engaging and feel-good listen. There were excellent production values, an enthusiasm that came through the speakers – and well thought out locally relevant speech content. (Press)
South – Spire FM
This entry went beyond being simply local and informative, it was emotive and the joint work with BFBS brought real emotions to the radio. This is a station which seems rooted in its community, had solid production and presentation and wasn’t afraid to be ‘real’. There was also a genuine sense of fun in a lot of the material. Spire is a vibrant station which reflects the diversity of the area in its output in a respectful and positive way. (Press)
South East – 107.5 Sovereign Radio
The jury noted that the station showed a strong commitment to local issues and that it’s Rajars had increased significantly in the past year. Sovereign’s entry was a great example of putting the concerns of the listener at the heart of what it broadcasts – and we were pleased to see that its audience numbers reflected this commitment.
South West – Radio Scilly
The “smallest station in the World” certainly provides a big offering to its listeners. Listening you feel as if they’ve been part of the fabric of island live forever, even though they haven’t yet completed a full year of operation. The station involves the whole community, provides many more hours than its Ofcom licence demands, hands over the afternoons to interested local groups, provides the kind of regular news, weather and shipping info that a remote island community needs and all with a charming and engaging style that makes you want to go on listening. The highlights submitted proved that the station is capable of reporting on important breaking stories, bringing listeners a range of detailed news items and event coverage, all on a shoestring budget. They demonstrated a clear knowledge and understanding of its audience with a range of creative techniques to keep Islanders up to date in a thoughtful and engaging manner. Radio Scilly has so far trained 67 local people as part-time presenters, it has achieved wide publicity through national TV and press, its website receives 400 hits an hour and, to avoid relying on grants, it has a loyalty card that gets subscribers a discount in local shops. No surprise that it has rebooked nearly all its advertisers for a second year. This is all done with a lightness of touch and professionalism which gives no hint of its tiny budget.
This little station is a national treasure and there’s no question it should win the national Radio Academy award. (Press)
Yorkshire – Rother FM
Of all of the entries, the Rother FM entry gave the best all round perspective of the station and its relationship with its audience. As a listener, the entry took me on a journey through the station and was not just about the breakfast show. The audio on the compilation CD, particularly the ‘listener reaction to the earthquake’ and ’star of the week’, highlighted the real and natural personality of the station. (Press)
Thank-you to all our judges and the chairs of the regional branches who helped co-ordinate the judging. A fantastic effort was put in by all.
Judges (in alphabetical order): John Bennett, Ronnie Bergman, Richard Berry, Nick Bull, Paul Chantler, Peter Cook, Tony Currie, Roger Cutsforth, James Daniels, Paul Easton, Mike Edgar, Joanne Fagon, Neil Greenslade, Richard Hilton, Kevin Howard, Emily Hudson, Will Jackson, Richard Johnson, Paul Leaper, David Lloyd, James Lloyd, Tim McClellan, Chris Moore, Clare Morrow, Mike Newman, Mike Owen, Sue Owen, John Roberts, John Ryan, Chris Serle, Gary Stein, Heather Suttie, Helen Thomas, Bill Young, Graham Young
Station of the Year
Beacon Radio Shropshire, BBC Radio Foyle and Radio Scilly were all nominated for the Sony, but only one station could win on the night, and Beacon walked away with the gong. You can see them picking up their award here.