When the Academy launched the ARIAS, we wanted to create an event that celebrated individual and collective excellence, was an entertaining showpiece and most importantly was accessible to all, not just to nominees and senior industry executives.
There were some, when we announced the awards, who said we’d never get it to work - but I believe we succeeded in creating a fantastic first event. The best attended audio/radio awards ever, a show with the very best production values, a great night with loads of love in the room and a great platform from which to build. Was it perfect? Of course not, but it was a pretty good first effort.
But - it was only a first step in establishing a major, national flagship awards event for our industry. In order to build upon that success, we need to consider how to improve and evolve the awards. Were our categories reflective of the industry we serve? Were they broad enough to be representative? How do we reach out further to sectors like audio books, internet radio and podcasting?
It wasn’t a great night for commercial radio and as someone who has made their career in the commercial sector, it was personally disappointing, but before you leap to accusations of BBC bias it's worth just pointing out how the judging process worked.
The integrity of the judging process is of paramount importance to me and the trustees, and it needed to be beyond reproach. Thus we engaged the most diverse and comprehensive list of judges ever assembled for an audio industry awards, equally weighted for commercial, BBC, online and independents.
So why didn’t we see more entries from the commercial sector? I know we can do more to broaden the appeal of the awards by looking again at the categories, but as John Myers put it on twitter “Commercial Radio must and has to do better, but it needs to enter first.”
But a national awards needs to reflect the whole industry and, to that end, over the coming weeks and months, I will be reaching out to commercial radio groups, their MDs, staff and stations large and small, to find out what the commercial sector are looking for in a national awards ceremony and what the academy can do to ensure they feel adequately represented.
Ultimately, The Radio Academy, and by extension the awards, are about supporting and celebrating the individuals who practise their craft in our industry, irrespective of who happens to employ them.
None of this though should detract from what The Radio Academy achieved in Leeds last week - the feedback has been amazing and thank you to all of you that sent congratulatory emails, it means the world. The following people deserve great plaudits; Nicci Holliday; the Trustees, Chairs of Judges, Phil Riley and Bob Shennan, the army of volunteers - from students and family members through to highly respected executives - and the wonderful team at Esa Live - these are the people who delivered this wonderful showpiece for our industry.
Once again thank you to all the people who gave up their time and expertise to support the ARIAS, those who entered, who came to Leeds and participated - and I am incredibly grateful to all of them, to you - thank you all. The tweet below from Kat Harbourne, perfectly sums up what I wanted our new industry awards to be about.
Finally for now, due to a number of reasons, we decided not to continue with TechCon as an academy event, but a passionate group of people wanted to take it on and we wholeheartedly support them. I know the challenges of putting something like this on and wish them all the very best, they have also kindly offered Radio Academy members a discount on tickets. Radio TechCon takes place on Monday 28th November at the Arts Theatre in London’s West End.
Check out radiotechcon.com for more details.