Radio Review

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
So here we are on the glitziest lunchtime of the year for the glitz-filled radio industry - the Sony Awards, radio's equivalent of the Oscars, as practically everybody calls them. Maybe we can see some of the big stars - why, yes, over there, shimmering along in that off-the- shoulder Versace number, could that be? It is! It's Richard Whiteley! And that tall, lean figure hiding from the prying paparazzi behind Raybans and an Old Testament beard, it must be - I think I'm going to faint - it must be Dave Lee Travis.

To be perfectly frank, in Hollywood terms the British radio industry is a bit short on glamour - short on money, short on attention to personal grooming, short on public interest. They're even short on professional interest - Chris Evans couldn't make it to the ceremony to collect his "UK Broadcaster of the Year" award. But that's the least important difference between the Sonys and the Oscars. Every award - the Oscars, the Booker, the Turner Prize - is criticised for ranking in order of merit things which can never be reduced to simple formulae, and for comparing unlike things; but those criticisms seem even more powerful when it comes to judging radio.

At least the Booker judges have some common notions about what constitutes good literature, and where they do disagree, they do so within a tradition of criticism that at least gives them a shared language to formulate their disagreements. Sony judges don't even have that much to work with. How could they? They're not just judging novels: they're judging plays, poetry, non-fiction, school textbooks, magazine articles, daily papers, comics and even - in the new category for "Best On Air" - the backs of cornflake packets. Sometimes these things are kept under separate headings, but not always. Radio 3's "Fairest Isle" season - an entire year of documentaries, drama, live concerts - doesn't really have anything in common with a one-off Radio 1 feature about the Isle of Wight Festival and Mark Goodier's daily Radio 1 show. So what does it mean when it beats them in the "Themed Music Prog- ramme/Programming" category?

Juggling the categories a little would get round some of these problems; the only way to make a significant difference would be to increase heftily the number of awards. You suspect, though, that this might put too much of a strain on Sony's generosity, not to mention the audience's patience. Still, even in their current form, as a way of drawing attention to excellence in radio the Sonys are better than nothing. Just about.