September 28, 2009 Leave a comment
It is a very gratifying day…after almost 5 years of pushing, cajoling, encouraging, developing and shouting about, there are finally nationally recognised awards for those who work in the production side of UK radio and audio! The RADIO PRODUCTION AWARDS have just been launched, a joint effort by the Radio Independents Group (the trade body that represents UK independent radio production companies) and the Radio Academy. Sponsored by HILL DICKINSON LLP, the awards aim to bring some much needed recognition to the hard working, underpaid and over-stressed producers, researchers, engineers and others who make UK radio happen 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
It is a strange thing, but radio is the only entertainment media that to date has failed to award its production staff. TV does it at the BAFTAs, film does it at the OSCARs, the music industry does it time and again. Which is odd, because radio is the one medium that is run on small teams (often just one person being the writer, producer, editor, etc…) and ridiculously low budgets. Yet for years now the industry, through the SONY and NEW YORK and PRIX ITALIA awards have recognised the on-air talent, the programmes, the stations and even the programmers…but not the writers, producers, engineers, etc… And radio is, just like TV and film and music, an art that generally requires some technical help to bring the talent to the public. I could name countless celebrity radio presenters who only sound so slick and professional on-air because they have someone ‘running the desk’ for them, and aproducer prepping the show in advance. And in production radio…documentaries, dramas, music specials…not a single ‘expert presenter’ or broadcaster would be heard reporting on the latest cultural trend, or great actor heard in an afternoon play, or fantastic band heard in an ‘as live’ set if it weren’t for the producer and engineer making the programme.
So it has always bewildered me why our industry…one which has for years made a big thing of its small production teams, one-person-bands,fast-turnaround production ability, low budgets…has failed…yes, FAILED…to reward the tireless and poorly paid efforts of the real talent behind the airwaves. The on-air talent makes the money, gets the gigs, receives the press and the plaudits, while the production teams get the aggravation, the insults, the long hours, the stress and the low wages. The very least the industry can do, since it can’t guarantee jobs, offer training, or seemingly fight for its own continued existence, is to give a few award statues to some production personnel!
And that is what is happening…at last. And it has happened because of the independent radio production sector. Radio indies produce approximately 10% of the national BBC radio output (not much compared to TV indies getting to make well over 25%!), have been around for several decades, develop new talent, find UK-wide programming ideas and do all this against a backdrop of political apathy for the sector and resentment from the BBC for having to work with us. So we’ve felt for some time that we wanted to improve the lot of those we represent, and those we employ. For indies the on-air talent is a bolt-on, but the production teams are our bread-and-butter…they keep us going, they win us work, they make the programmes that earn us money. We love and appreciate our production teams – hell, most of us ARE our production teams!
I recently stepped down as Chair of RIG, after spending 5 years helping to establish the trade body and make it truly representative of the indie community. There are many things I am proud of achieving, but the Radio Production Awards is one of the proudest achievements. It has taken a good few years of voluntary work by a group of 5 or so indie colleagues to make it a reality. We have had financial support from a wonderful legal firm called HILL DICKINSON LLP, and now the Radio Academy has partnered with us to jointly organise and produce the annual event – adding weight and legitimacy to the awards (the academy also run the Sony Awards!)
The aim is to make it as cheap to enter and to attend as possible, since those entering are individuals and don’t have access to marketing budgets! The awards night will be part party/part networking event. The whole thing is to be far less bloated and over-long than other media awards events. We are talking small but beautiful!
AND it is open to everybody on the production side of UK radio, whether you work for an indie, the BBC national networks, BBC in-house production teams, local BBC radio, national commercial radio, local and regional commercial radio, AND those podcasters who aspire to produce output of radio-quality.
So…fancy taking your go at entering? Why not? And this is just year 1. I hope to watch these awards grow in stature as the years pass. Here’s the flyer, and a link to the relevant website for entries. Good luck, spread the word…and join me in a hearty hooray for the production teams…we simply wouldn’t have any radio without them (an since 90% of the UK listen to radio every week, it would be a shock to the system!)