It’s time to rethink the ACRAs

Comment from Peter Saxon.

One of the ACRAs’ finest attributes is also its biggest disadvantage.

I’ve been to every ACRAs – and before that, the RAWARDS, since their inception in the late 1980s. In that time, I’ve witnessed successive CRA (and previously FARB) CEOs struggle with the awards format.

The aim was to reach a level of entertainment that rivalled the Academy Awards, or failing that, the Logies.

Joan Warner, the CRA CEO for most of those years, made it her mission to at least make the ACRAs as good as the compromised format would allow.

Compromised? For a start, the thing was always, still is, way too long. And because of that, only a select few of the winners are allowed to say a word or two, which is a real shame. Of course, the reason for its length is that almost 100 awards are handed out on the night to regional and provincial recipients as well as to the big wigs in the metro markets. If every recipient were given a minute to speak, the entire evening would go for around six hours or more.

But that’s the compromise the ACRAs make so that people from the regions can rub shoulders with the stars of our industry at a glittering event in a top city venue. It’s a great motivator, especially for younger talent. Yet, as admirable as the intent may be, it’s also what’s holding the event back from being televised with the potential to reach a massive TV audience, the vast majority of which, is made up of radio and audio listeners.

But will it make for good television?

The first thing you need for a televised awards show is stars. And, right now radio has arguably more stars than TV. In times past, radio personalities, including heavyweights such as John Laws, Alan Jones and Doug Mulray tended to fail on television while TV’s biggest names, like Ray Martin and George Negus, underperformed on radio. Today, the line between radio and TV talent is more blurred.

The other week, Mediaweek, released its Top 25 Star Power list. The top 5 consists of personalities best known for radio and podcasting. In order, they are 1. Kyle and Jackie O, 2. Hamish and Andy, 3. Ben Fordham, 4. Abbie Chatfield and 5. Christian O’Connell.

Only nine out of the list of 25 could be considered to be television personalities in that they spend significantly more time in front of a camera than behind a microphone.

Of the Top 5, with the exception of O’Connell, the other four are also well-known to television audiences, which is all the more reason that a televised version of the ACRAs could become a roaring success.

However, to succeed on TV, the ACRAs needs more than its biggest stars. The current format would have to change too.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Start the ACRAs at, say, 6pm, (as they do now) and hand out all the awards for only the regional and provincial recipients – timed to finish by about 8:15 pm.
  • Take a break and then go live-to-air on television at 8:30 pm with the major awards for metro plus the special awards such as Lifetime Achievement and the Brian White Memorial Scholarship – together with some entertainment. 
  • And for goodness’ sake, give all the televised winners a minute to say a few words.

There’s your TV show!

This plan would take nothing away from the good people in regional and provincial radio. They’ll still be in the room, able to hobnob it with the big names, with the added rush of being part of a bigger televised event – even if they don’t actually appear on stage during the broadcast. But hey, they don’t appear on TV now, anyway.

Having said that, with all the cameras already set up in the room, why not put the earlier part of proceedings on YouTube? It may not be compelling television for the general public, but it might be compulsory viewing for those in the audio industry, their families and friends, that didn’t score an invite to the ACRAs.

And while I’m on a roll with all these proposed changes, why not a rebrand from the ‘Australian Commercial Radio Awards’ to the ‘Commercial Radio And Podcast Awards?’

On second thoughts, perhaps not.

Peter Saxon

Main Pic: Kyle and Jackie O along with their Breakfast Team celebrating their induction into the Radio Hall of Fame at ACRAs 2022

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