Critics' Awards 1999 - Radio: Ambridge: an anomaly among farming communities

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The Independent Culture
The radio industry has its own award ceremony, the Sonys, held every year at the swanky Grosvenor Hotel in London's Park Lane. The Independent on Sunday now has its own Radio Awards ceremony, which is held in my kitchen in Shepherd's Bush over two and a half bottles of cheap red plonk. And so, until a decent sponsor like Laphroaig or, even better, Lagavulin shows up, it is called the Plonkies. The results of this review of the year's best and worst broadcasting were stuffed into an envelope and read out by me in a slurred and trembly voice. And they are:

Worst Promotional Gimmick Sent To Critics In The Ludicrous Hope That It Would Generate Positive Criticism In Spite Of The Quality Or Rather Lack Of Same Of The Programme Being So Publicised: A jar of Dolmio Pasta Sauce, to go with Classic FM's evening of The Nice Bits from Puccini operas.

Most Glaring Missed Opportunities: This year, in The Archers, no one has topped themselves or had an extra-marital affair, making Ambridge the most anomalous farming community in the recorded history of the world.

Most Irritating Archers Character: The judge is torn between Sid Perks and Jack Woolley. And Elizabeth. Ruth's pretty awful, too. As for the vicar, and the children ... Who's the worst? I don't know. Kill them all, let God sort them out.

Commissioning Editor One Would Most Like To Sleep With Fishes: The person responsible for the incredibly stupid Radio 4 quiz shows; you know, the one with lawyers, the one about antiques, the one about businesses. Only three quiz shows should be allowed: Brain of Britain, I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue, and The News Quiz. The last two have largely and indeed frequently interchangeable panellists but as they are all funny this is not a problem, rather the reverse.

Best Disc Jockeys on Radio 1 Between 2 and 4 in the Afternoon, Weekdays: Has to be Mark and Lard. I mean, where's the competition? Nowhere.

Most Intentionally Comic Series: The Very World of Milton Jones. It just got funnier and funnier. Runner-up: The Sunday Format. Cannot praise specific moments as programme took the wizz out of Sunday newspapers.

Best Station Overall: Has to be Radio 3, not that there are all that many contenders. Radio 4 has stayed about the same, the improvements cancelled out by, for example, yet another series of No Commitments; Radio1 similarly, although it would be nice if they gave Annie Nightingale a fairer crack of the whip, or stopped John Peel from appearing on any other station. Radio 2 more or less excludes itself from any award by the nature of its programming, which is horribly unfair, I know. Radio 5 is fine as far as its brief goes, but always gets patronising little pats from other sources so will not get one here. Talk Radio is, under the cynical and depraved Kelvin MacKenzie, even worse than it once was, as its many ex- listeners have noticed. But Radio 3 wins because of the successful turnaround in its fortunes since the departure of Nicholas Kenyon, who really seemed to be on a mission to end the discussion and transmission of serious culture in this country. This might have been an agenda forced on him from above but I don't really care.

All the little changes made over the last year have been good ones, making it both more intelligent and accessible at the same time, which hardly seems possible but there you go. There are one or two presenters who make me feel as if I should not be listening to them in jeans but you can't have everything.

Previous winners

1991 The Gang That Fell Apart (R3)

1992 Knowing me, Knowing You (R4)

1993 It is With Very Great Regret (R4)

1994 Memory Lost (R4)

1995 Fairest Isle (R3)

1996 Leslie Forbes (R4)

1997 Spoonface Steinberg (R4)

1998 John Evans (R3)