With Netflix dropping whole series in one day, the TV broadcasters delivering strong slates after strong slates and all the cat videos you could ever want right there on your phone, it’s difficult to keep up with the best content. That can be particularly true when it comes to radio, where people can default to their same old favourites.
All the journalists who judge the Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG)’s radio awards write about radio. That means we are lucky enough to have to listen to shows that are hidden in the outer reaches or fallow middles of the schedule as part of our job. Our long lists for this year’s BPG Awards- this year for the first time sponsored by Sky’s online streaming service NOW TV– included a late night host on a commercial radio station, music and news broadcasters, comedy, horror and factual programming. With so much great audio to listen to it was difficult to narrow things down.
Our shortlist for Radio Programme of the Year includes the terrifying Fright Night – two wonderfully scary plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Halloween last year. One of our judges said the adaptations of Japanese horror The Ring and seventies TV movie The Stone Tape showed that radio, when it is done well, does scary better than any TV or film production. Another said the broadcast, of two plays on a Friday night, pushed radio into a whole new direction.
Up against Fright Night for Radio Programme of the Year is BBC Radio 4’s The Reunion. Expertly hosted by Sue MacGregor since 2006, the show revisits major news stories, bringing together the principals to talk about what happened. Our judges thought last year’s series was terrific, citing the episodes on the Spycatcher case, The Birmingham Six, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, the Fastnet race, Foot and Mouth and Guantanamo Bay, all as terrific highlights.
No one could get away with saying the final two programmes nominated are hiding in the cobwebbed edges of the schedule. Instead, our judges wanted to commend both shows for being examples of a revitalised returning format. Test Match Special had a tremendous year on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Radio 4 Extra, helped by the dramatic action on the pitch during The Ashes. The Archers, meanwhile, brought drama and suspense to teatimes around the country with its gripping plotline about Rob and Helen.
We have a real mix of broadcasters in the running for our Broadcaster of the Year category, although all four of them are from the BBC. Lauren Laverne is shortlisted for both her excellent late morning show on BBC 6 Music and for innovating around the whole concept of broadcasting with The Pool. Launched with the former Red editor Sam Baker, The Pool is an online platform that mimics the radio cycle, releasing different content through the day.
My fellow judges were also keen to salute Ritula Shah, the lead presenter on The World Tonight since October 2013. With all the focus on the Today programme, our judges believe The World Tonight, with its excellent recap of the day gets unjustly overlooked. After having to endure ten months as the acting host following the departure of Robin Lustig, Shah has really pushed the show forward over the last two years.
Danny Baker makes the list for his ever-cheerful Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 5 Live. The judges believe he is a brilliantly entertaining listen and an underused talent. The final broadcaster nominated this time is John Finnemore, for his excellent BBC Radio 4 comedy John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme. Finnemore also featured in a cracking episode of The Now Show just before Christmas. Finnemore had a busy 2015 and also wrote Double Acts, a series of excellent comedy radio dialogues for BBC Radio 4.
With so much talent on the radio is it any wonder that 90 per cent of the country is tuning into a radio station every week?
BPG Awards 2016 Radio Nominations
Radio Broadcaster of the Year
Danny Baker, The Danny Baker Show (BBC Radio 5 Live)
John Finnemore, John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme (BBC Radio 4)
Lauren Laverne (BBC 6 Music & The Pool)
Ritula Shah, The World Tonight (BBC Radio 4)
Radio Programme of the Year
Fright Night (BBC Radio 4)
The Archers (BBC Radio 4)
Test Match Special (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra & BBC Radio 4)
The Reunion, presented by Sue MacGregor (BBC Radio 4)