By Mike Kinosian
LOS ANGELES — Thanks to the Olympic Games, the world comes together every four years through athletic competition.
The radio industry has its own equivalent of that each year, but unlike what will take place next month in Sochi (Russia, 2/7-23) – there will not be any heated bobsled or luge rivalries.
As part of the New York Festivals’ “World’s Best Radio Programs,” entrants will be evaluated on what they do best, and it has been that way ever since these particular honors were established in 1982.
Rulings Emanate From Grand Jurists
Various people have controlled privately-owned New York Festivals. At one point, those who currently possess it owned the Clio awards. As New York Festivals International Radio Program competition executive director Rose Anderson tells Talkers, “They are very committed to honoring excellence.”
Entries typically originate from 30 – 50 countries. “One thing that is most important to us is that we make New York Festivals Radio Program Awards a destination for people all over the world who are creating radio that is interesting, innovative, and of very high quality,” Anderson remarks.
Rather than citing those who do the evaluations as “judges,” the organization chooses to call them “grand jury members” and Anderson states to Talkers, “They have consistently written comments that the quality of the entries is fantastic. People are entering material in drama, news, documentaries, talk, and music that continues to make new ways of telling stories. We have had entries from Radio Free Asia; from folks on the scene who described the riots in Cairo; and people from Romania who submitted amazing audio of drama. As I listen to the submissions, I echo what the grand jury members are saying. This is fantastic work and how great it is to give them a bigger venue and have these people recognized. It is a very [satisfying] and rewarding experience for me to be part of this kind of effort.”
More than 100 “grand jury members” are part of the process and they hail from around the globe. “People who have created excellence recognize it in others,” Anderson declares. “Those from different parts of the world are equally able to recognize excellence.” Last year’s jury members represented locales such as Australia, Canada, Dubai, Germany, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Romania, Scotland, and the United States.
Approximately 130 headings comprise the large-scale competition. Virtually everything is covered from news programs, news reports, documentaries, numerous talk radio facets, entertainment, and morning programming.
Several important additions have been made this year. “There is a new category for travel and tourism, in both our podcast and documentary section,” Anderson explains. “In addition, there is one for best nonfiction series and another for best student journalist.”
Groupings introduced last year included “Best Legal Reporting”; “Current Affairs”; “Social Issues”; “Best Interview”; “Best Performance by an Actor/Actress”; “Best Sports Format”; “Student Drama”; and “Entertainment Program Promo.” Additional satellite and online categories existed for drama, comedy, and religious programs.
Honorees in 2013 included The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (“Broadcaster of the Year”) and TBI Media UK (“Production Company of the Year”). Two programs earned Grand Trophies: Radio Netherlands Worldwide for “Best Coverage of an Ongoing News Story” (“Benghazi Blogger – The State We Are In”) and TBI Media UK in the “History” category for “Titanic – Minute by Minute.”
While some other competitions use the word “world,” Anderson opines they are not totally inclusive. “We do not make any distinction between where something was created and where it plays,” she stresses. “We have no geographical boundaries or quotas. It is very important that to be international, you include all the nations.”
Thus, the United States is part of that equation. “We are truly international – meaning we embrace all countries,” Anderson notes. “Historically, entries have been a mix from all over.”
If someone has a two-hour morning talk show, for example, he or she is more than welcome to put forward an entire show; excerpts from it; a series of shows; or excerpts from a series of shows. “We believe that the entrant deserves to choose the presentation of the entry,” Anderson points out. “People creating the work know how [their submission] should be best presented. In the areas of on-air talent, people can submit one hour of their airtime, telescoped version of an hour, or a compilation of the best segments.”
Upholding The Tradition
Winning one of these awards does not preclude anyone from entering in subsequent years. In fact, Anderson states that in many cases, people participate in multiple years. “Companies and creative people who enter are very happy with the experience as a whole,” she remarks.
Entries are graded on production values, organization, presentation of information, creativity, and use of the medium.
Invitation to submit a piece for consideration commenced earlier this month (1/9), with the window remaining open until March 19. Preliminary round of judging will start in late-April; finalists will most likely be announced in May. Medal rounds start immediately thereafter, leading to the New York City award ceremony at Manhattan Penthouse on (Monday) June 23.
Boasting a strong production background, Anderson – who previously ran the sports Emmy awards for the National Academy of Arts & Sciences - has been with New York Festivals for nearly five years, Prior to that, she was part of the production team that covered the Olympics for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and ABC Sports. In addition, the Massachusetts native, who holds a BA degree from the University of Massachusetts and an MS degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, has created arts programming for New York City’s PBS outlet, WNET (channel 13). “I grew up listening to some of the great voices of radio,” she recounts to Talkers. “I don’t think it gets any better than Curt Gowdy announcing the BoSox. There was a real romance to listening to those voices. Some material that comes into our competition is from people who carry on that tradition.”
Mike Kinosian is managing editor and west coast bureau chief of TALKERS. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.