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Awards for Peel silence R4's critics

CRITICS OF Radio 4's controversial new schedule were silenced last night when one of its key programmes crowned a year of awards by sweeping the board at the prestigious Sony Radio Awards.

Home Truths, John Peel's gentle Saturday morning stroll through the highways and byways of domestic life, picked up an unprecedented three awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London to the joy of a packed industry audience.

The radio station of the year award was won by Radio 2 for the way in which the network has reinvented itself as a younger, baby-boomer station without alienating its older audience. The judges were impressed with its "broad and distinctive programming." The comedian Mark Lamarr won an award for his Radio 2 programme about Fifties music, Shake, Rattle and Roll,which, the judges said, illustrated the way in which the network has updated itself.

In a further success for the BBC, which had a very good evening, Radio 1's Breakfast Show host Zoe Ball won the special Gold Award for her services to radio. Ball's award is a major achievement for a broadcaster who has been hosting her own show on radio for six months. The Gold Award was particularly sweet because the same prize was won by her rival, Chris Evans, last year. Evans' Virgin Radio was conspicuous by its absence from this year's nominations.

Peel's Home Truths won the Gold Award for the best weekend programme as well as the best magazine programme award and the best short form prize. The judges said that the show: "Takes what could be a banal programme brief and turns it into highly memorable and compelling radio. John Peel is the star of the show because of his very self- deprecating manner.

"He gives of himself and this unlocks a superb response from the audience, who immerse themselves in the thrust of the programme."

Home Truths divided critics when it first appeared and attracted claims that "it wasn't about anything", but this is the fourth award the show has won in the past two months.

Accepting his award, the veteran DJ stuck to his self- deprecating style and said: "I'm just the front man for a very hard-working and by-and-large underpaid team of people."