AND THE WINNER IS…

SEEN ALL those glitzy telly awards ceremonies with Jonathan Ross(remember him?) and his ilk dishing out the gongs. How do they get to that stage? Guesswork? Nepotism? Hard work I tell you. I’ve just been on the jury for the Television Journalism Oscars-the Royal Television Society Awards and let me let you into some,but only some, of the secrets of the process. Writes John Mair

The juries are recruited from the great and good among the peers in the industry and some real people like me. You get the tap on the shoulder and you have to do it. First, a strange parcel arrives in the post. Two Dvds and a bound volume of supporting statements from entrants. Ignore those-they are hype and it turns out not always accurate.My award  was the biggest award-News Programme of the Year. So it is eagerly fought over by the major broadcasters BBC News with the ‘Ten’ and ‘Newsnight’, ITN with ‘ITV News’ and ‘Channel Four News’, Channel Five News ,Sky News and an outsider or two like BBC Northern  Ireland’s @newsline’.

You have to watch every minute of their submission and make a judgement on it. Your fellow judges include the Head of Newsgathering for BBC News,the Managing Editor ITV News,the Editor Channel Five News,the Heads of production for Sky and Channel Four News, the news editor of the Observer newspaper and an Al Jazeera English  presenter. There’s no hiding place among that lot. You do not go naked into that debating chamber. You do your homework.It takes a couple of days hard viewing.

Each person-civilians first-put their viewpoint on each entry then it falls to the broadcaster to accept or not the consensus of the jury. All are there in two roles as jurors and as counsel for the defence of their employers and their product. Some of them do it with great verve, some not but an unspoken consensus does emerge. People, whoever they are,know good telly when they see it, brave and good journalism when it hits the screen. Surprising how much agreement there is on the bad stuff too. Crap stands out.

Not surprising it’s called a jury because alliances, however temporary, form and un-form. The civilians are important to get on your side. Like a real  jury you have to vote for a shortlist and then a winner. But who is that? I cannot tell you because i do simply not know. I , like the rest of the world will find out at the Grand Dinner (yes we did sing for our supper!) on February 23rd at the London Hilton along with the results of all the other juries in journalism. Watch this space

By John Mair

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