Winners and losers in the weary world of awards ceremomies

Good evening, and welcome to the Grosvenor House, for what is positively the last event in the 1997/98 media awards calendar. My name’s Torin Douglas and, as you know, this week marks the culmination of the season, with no fewer than three awards dinners in seven days – the Royal Television Society Sports & Journalism Awards, the BAFTA Television Awards and the PPA Magazines ’98 Awards.

But I’m sure you’ll agree, you can’t have too many awards events, so it’s a pleasure to welcome to you to the Summa Cum Laude of ceremonies – the Award-Goers Awards of The Year Awards.

We’d like to say a big thank you to our sponsors, the Granada Group – owners of the Grosvenor House and, until recently, the Savoy – who’ve supported this event in recognition of all that the awards industry has done for Granada profits in the past year.

On to the first award: The Best Foreign Awards Ceremony in the English Language Award.

There could be only one winner. In its 70th anniversary year, the Oscars swept all before it, after years of distressingly low-key coverage in the UK – even when the odd Brit won an Oscar for best lighting.

It’s a tribute to the enduring appeal of the Oscars that British broadcasters now feel obliged to send their own correspondents and production teams to the event. Braving cramped, steamy conditions in crime-ridden Los Angeles, they are forced to stand outside the parties and the ceremony and convey the excitement of Britain once again winning a single award, this year for best music, in a film which recycled old pop songs.

The Most Valiant – But Doomed – Attempt to Emulate the Glamour of the Oscars Award.

This goes to the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, better-known as BAFTA, which this year separated its Film Awards from its TV Awards so that stars of the calibre of Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Julia Roberts would not have to be upstaged by more popular British TV stars such as David Jason. Instead, they were upstaged by Billy Connolly and Judy Dench, two stars of a made-for-TV BBC film called Mrs Brown.

The Most Valiant – But Doomed – Attempt to Emulate the Glamour of the BAFTAs Award.

This goes to the Sony Radio Awards, which having tried to liven up their long-running lunch event by having TV stars present the awards (making it even longer-running), last year went the whole hog and switched the ceremony to an evening black-tie affair.

The Most Valiant – But Doomed – Attempt to Ensure Commercial Radio Wins an Award Award.

This too goes to the Sony Awards, which this year threw out most of the longest-established categories, such as Reporter of the Year, Best Actor and Best Actress, in favour of the Breakfast Award (Talk/News), Drivetime Award (Music), Evening/Late Night Award (Talk), Station Branding Award and Station of the Year With Between 1 and 12 Million Potential Listeners Award. Unfortunately, all these awards – along with all the others – went to the BBC.

The Evening/Late Night Awards Award (Radio). This goes to the Sony Awards.

This year, the Lunchtime Awards Award (Radio) was shared by the Television & Radio Industries Club Awards, and the Voice of the Listener & Viewer Awards.

The Evening/Late Night Awards Award (Newspapers) goes to the British Press Awards.

The Lunchtime Awards Award (Newspapers) goes to the What The Papers Say Awards.

The Advertising/Marketing Awards Award This was easily the largest category with dozens of entries, but no judge could be found sober enough to offer an opinion.

The Self-Defeating Use of a News Release Award (PR Agency) goes to the Sony Awards, whose PR firm withheld the results from journalists, until early editions of the nationals had gone to press, ensuring it got no coverage (except on those radio stations which had won awards). Despite this, the Press Association announced that Radio 5 Live was Station of the Year two hours before the official announcement.

The Self-Defeating Use of a News Release Award (In-House) goes to the RTS Sports & Journalism Awards, which also withheld releases till the event was over. The RTS’s hard-line policy followed a memorable occasion when PA published the results (with a 9pm embargo) at 5pm, before those attending had left the office.

The Aggravating Treatment of Journalists Award was hard fought. The Sony Awards’ refusal to give out embargoed news releases meant that those hacks who had places at the dinner could not stay to eat it. But the award goes to BAFTA, and its Film Awards PR company Freud. For years, the BAFTAs’ PR was handled by Judy Tarloe, who ensured journalists could watch the ceremony, eat, and then talk to the winners at leisure.

Freud excluded journalists from the ceremony, failed to feed them, and insisted they interview the winners as soon as they had received their awards, allowing five minutes for each. This meant there were no individual interviews, merely scrambles for soundbites.

The Most Enjoyable Awards Ceremony Award goes to the Broadcasting Press Guild. These awards are fun because only the winners are invited, so the runners-up don’t have to pretend they’re delighted the other person won it. And the awards are presented before lunch, so everyone can then relax and enjoy it.

Cynical observers may choose to point out that I have been chairman of the Guild for the past two years, and hosted these awards. This had nothing to do with the judges’ decision, which is final, and no correspondence may be entered into.

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