Behind the scenes: The ARIAS

The Radio Academy is a charity dedicated to 'the encouragement, recognition and promotion of excellence in UK broadcasting and audio production'. In order to recognise this excellence, the Radio Academy host the ARIAS. For our latest guest feature, we asked Sam Bailey, Chair of the ARIAS 2020, to take us behind the scenes at radio's biggest and most prestigous award ceremony.

  • 26 Feb 2020
  • min read

The awards

'The ARIAS are The Audio and Radio Industry Awards – we like to think of them as the BAFTAs of radio. They exist to celebrate the best of radio and podcasting in the UK – to recognise the incredible production, presenting and programming talent we have in the UK, and to bring everyone together to have an amazing party. This year’s awards are at The London Palladium, hosted by Radio 1’s Greg James, and will see 23 trophies handed out, for categories such as Best Breakfast Show, Station of the Year, Best Sports Show, and our newest category the Radio Times Moment of the Year.'

The industry

'The UK radio industry is the best in the world – but then, I would say that! But I’ve never known a more passionate, dedicated, committed industry of people who love what they do. Often, at the more showbiz end of radio, we refer to the talent as the famous people who talk into the microphones. But they’d be the first to tell you that the real talent are the Producers, Assistants, Engineers, Editors, Sound Designers and more that make radio tick. And that’s before you get into the people who select the music, sell the adverts, book the artists, organise the events, do the marketing, commission the programmes and more. Awards are a chance to sing for the unsung.'

The challenges

'In the UK 90% of the population tune into live radio at least once a week. It is by far the dominant live broadcasting platform in the country, at a time when there is more competition than ever for your ears and eyes. And podcasting is growing at a pace too, with 17% of the population saying they’ve listened to a podcast, creating a whole new set of opportunities for people who love listening to or making audio. Of course, there are challenges – there’s consolidation of ownership, there’s competition for ad revenue from digital, there’s the threat to the Licence Fee – but there are also tremendous opportunities – new radio stations launching, new sources of money, and an incredibly loyal audience. The radio industry is the oldest and best broadcasting sector of them all. It is resilient and it will always adapt.'

The ceremony

'It’s a labour of love, for sure. The hard work starts with the people putting together their entries – we had more than 900 entries this year, which is a record. People spend days, sometimes weeks of effort putting together the perfect audio entry and accompanying text – so the hard work definitely starts with them. Then we have the judging phase – around 140 judges give their time freely, and many had upwards of 10 hours of audio to listen to each. Sometimes it’s agonising having to choose between your favourites. The awards ceremony itself is the easy bit after all that! We have a great team at TBI Media putting the show on, and from the Academy Trustees me and (Jazz FM controller) Nick Pitts leading that. It’s been a fantastic team, and we can’t wait for people to enjoy the night.'

The emerging talent

'It’s the Academy’s mission to break down barriers and bring people together for debate and celebration of radio and podcasting. Some of those barriers are quite obvious – bringing together BBC and Commercial, or Radio and Podcasting, or editorial and technical – but some are less obvious. It’s all too often that only the boss-class go to the conferences, and we want to make sure that people of all stages of their careers are contributing to the debate and joining the parties. Our 30 Under 30 scheme is our flagship scheme that celebrates 30 individuals every year that are most likely in the first decade of their careers. But we also make sure we give discounts and free tickets to younger colleagues, and encourage organisations to allow their staff to participate. At the ARIAS we’ve made sure all of the big broadcasters had free tickets to give out to staff to make the awards as inclusive as possible.'

Final words

'The ARIAS are going to be a blast! We’ve got a great line up of entertainment and awards, at a fantastic venue, and we expect a brilliant turn out of passionate audio loving people. I can’t wait to see you there.'

The ARIAS will take place on Wednesday 4 March at the London Palladium. Head here for tickets.