In My Opinion: John Collins: The Sony winners? An interesting statistic

SO, the annual Sony Radio Academy Awards were held in London’s Grosvenor House Hotel last night, and, as predicted, it was a night when the great and the good of the industry celebrated all that was glittering about 2012’s radio broadcasting.

In a competition predicated on straightforward excellence, it was always going to be the case that the BBC picked up a little over two-thirds of the gold awards, while commercial stations picked up the remainder. Independent production companies, who primarily make programmes for the BBC, had a decent night across a range of radio genres.

Commercial radio will inevitably be under-represented at the Sonys, because they typically have fewer resources and its programmes are mostly of a kind that don’t qualify for some categories, such as drama. That said, for BBC Radio 2 to nab the gong for ‘Best Imaging’ (the jingles, trails and linking audio that brand a station) must have been galling.

But another statistic jumped out at me when I read through the results.

Not a single gold award was won by a programme outside of England. There were silvers for BBC Radio Scotland and Real Radio Scotland, but the gold awards (or first prizes) stayed resolutely south of the border – including for Scots broadcaster, Eddie Mair.

Having been a Sony judge in the past, I can attest to the rigour of the process and it’s certain that it wasn’t chauvinistic nationalism that kept us all back.

But I’m amazed that BBC Radio Scotland was deemed to have made nothing else that merited the gold standard. And the huge Bauer Media group in Scotland produce some amazing, compelling content – it didn’t feature at all.

I’ve asked around.

Anecdotally, it seems that there were less entries this year. Might it do with the cost and the time it takes to craft an entry? There’s a lot to entering these days. So maybe some entries that ought to have gone in, didn’t.

I have no idea how we fix this.

I’m certain that Scottish radio is good enough to win numerous prizes. BBC Scotland, Radio Clyde and Real Radio Scotland did some fantastic work around the football stories of last year. We’ve had the early exchanges in the referendum campaigns and some truly stellar programming.

I’m particularly thinking of some of BBC Radio Scotland’s evening output, especially Ricky Ross’s ‘Another Country’.

But we don’t seem to be cutting through.

So rather than offer an answer, I have a couple of questions:

* Is it too expensive in terms of £££ and too time-consuming to enter the Sonys, thus favouring the bigger operations?

* Is it time for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to mount their own ceremonies?

John Collins lectures in radio broadcasting at Reid Kerr College in Paisley, following a 25-year career on both sides of the microphone at both the BBC and in commercial radio in Scotland. He still pops up occasionally on the radio, at Clyde 2 on a Sunday morning. Pic: Michele Dillon.