Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at The ARIAS


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3 January 2023
by Helen Thomas (Chair The Radio Academy) and Phil Riley (Chair of Judges The ARIAS)

In recent months, we’ve been researching what we could do to further improve Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in The ARIAS.  We’ve talked to other leading media industry awards, and we’ve also heard ideas from many members.  We’ve always been committed to the continuous improvement of ARIAS processes and, in that spirit, we’re introducing a number of changes for this year’s awards, and making a commitment to carry on further work throughout 2023.

Diversity in ARIAS Judges  We’ve today published diversity data for the last three years of ARIAS judges.  Our focus over that period has been on visible diversity in gender and ethnicity, and we’ve aimed for a 50:50 gender split, and for our judges to contain a minimum of 20% Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups. In 2023 we’re introducing an anonymous monitoring process that aims to capture other demographic factors, and will report that data later in the year. There is change within our judging pool every year, and we’re currently inviting expressions of interest from Radio Academy Members who would like to put themselves forward to be an ARIAS judge (deadline 16 January). 

Supporting Judges and Head Judges – In the ARIAS, the outcome of each category is determined by an independent panel of judges, through anonymous scoring followed by a roundtable meeting to decide the medal positions. Each panel is led by a Head Judge who is a Fellow or Trustee of the Radio Academy. We endeavour to ensure the Head Judge feels empowered and supported to run the judging process they’re overseeing, and that all judges feel able to score entries according to their own judgment, and that all opinions are heard in judging meetings. As in previous years we will be preparing clear briefing materials that spell out these roles and responsibilities, and will now formally codify how judges can ask for more support and advice.

Independent Editorial Advisor – We want to be confident that all entries meet consistent editorial compliance standards. For the 2023 awards, we’re introducing an experienced, independent editorial advisor, whose focus will be on audio from unregulated platforms – i.e., podcasts and internet radio. They will listen to high-scoring entries with the Broadcasting Code in mind, particularly thinking about harm and offence, hatred and abuse, impartiality and accuracy. Their findings will be shared with Head Judges to bring to the jury meeting.

Flagging/Referral System – We want to make it clear that judges can flag to their Head Judge any editorial concerns or questions about any entry they’ve heard. Where necessary, in conjunction with the ARIAs Chair of Judges and the Academy CEO, a Head Judge can then ask for the input of the Independent Editorial Advisor, to carry out background research on an entry, if anything about its origins isn’t clear in the submission. 

A change in Scoring Criteria – in addition to the three generic scoring criteria that judges have used in recent years (Creativity, Impact and Production) we will be asking judges to score against a fourth criterion called “Meets The Rubric”. We think this explicit score – to determine how well the entry meets the specific aims of each category – will give judges more scope in their scoring, more areas to debate in their meeting, and give entrants real clarity about what they need to demonstrate in their entries.

Continuing this work in 2023 – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is part of The Radio Academy’s Values: we want our work to build an inclusive community that’s representative of everyone working in UK radio and audio.  So, this is not the end of this work. In 2023 we are planning to bring in more external expertise from an ED&I consultant, to look at everything we do at The Radio Academy, and everything we want to achieve.  We want them to challenge us, to help us articulate our aims, and to advise where else we can make positive change.

Helen Thomas, Chair The Radio Academy
Phil Riley, Chair of Judges The ARIAS