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Radio Academy AGM: as it happened

By James Cridland for media.info
Posted 11 December 2014, 4.06am est

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I live-tweeted the AGM last night: ensuring that Academy members who couldn't make it to London could follow along. The following are slightly tidied versions of the tweets I sent. Here's a summary of what was said in case you'd like a more editorialised view.

I should note that these are not the official minutes (!) I don't know whether those will be available publicly.

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  • At the @radioacademy AGM. No @radiotodaylive ("we're not touching this") so I might have to tweet something...
  • Radio Academy AGM is going to start late, says Ben Cooper, because the lifts at the BBC are rubbish.
  • Were off. Travis Baxter (deputy chair) and Gloria Abramoff (interim CEO) are both sitting "up front". Ben Cooper (chair) is speaking.
  • They are starting with the tedious legal AGM stuff. Ben is currently joking about his inability to say "quorate".
  • This room (the theatre training room on the 7th floor of Broadcasting House) is full with people.
  • The legal stuff done; we now have a scrabble for a microphone that works. It is a radio event after all, you wouldn't expect the sound to work.
  • I should just make clear before we continue: I am no longer a Trustee, having "stepped down" in July.
  • Cooper reads from a prepared statement. Phrases I jot down: "I believe in an umbrella organisation for the industry. But to do that we have to change it. I have worked in hospital radio, local and national. I have a strong understanding of all levels. That is key for this role. The Trustees work as a team, speak honestly, and with consideration. But when more than one of the Patrons have questions about the awards, and the existence of Academy, then we must listen."
  • Cooper announces an EGM "in the New Year" where members will vote and decide on the Academy's future.
  • Academy finances are "fine until the end of March", he says, after cuts made.
  • There are noises off. It turns out that the One Show scripts are being photocopied.
  • Gloria Abramoff is asked to speak (who is temporary, and part-time, CEO of the Radio Academy). Like Cooper, reads off a prepared script.
  • Abramoff describes the Academy's decision as "postponing" the Radio Awards in her speech. Talks up the Radio Festival this year, but says it lost money. She reminds us about the successful #30u30 (disclaimer: which I was a judge for), and Hall of Fame and Fellowship announcements.
  • Now saying how fabulous the RPAs were. Thanking some patrons. (media.info is a patron, incidentally.)
  • Abramoff: "I am trying to show you how many different organisations that the Radio Academy works with and alongside".
  • Large round of applause for the Radio Academy office staff, who are being made redundant.
  • Back to Ben Cooper. "It is not my ambition to bring the Radio Academy to an end."
  • Travis Baxter takes to the stage. They had a useful discussion "today" about what next for the Radio Academy. (Today?! Gosh.) "We need help to build the new Radio Academy for the future. We want it to continue to be a members organisation. Funding should come not just by patrons but also each of us, so we each have a stake in the future."
  • Baxter: "The Radio Academy is going to really financially struggle to build iconic events in the future (awards and festival)."
  • Baxter: The EGM will be in first quarter of next year with, ideally, concrete proposals for future. All trustees will make themselves available for re-election in March. A complete new start for Trustees.
  • Now - questions.
  • Tim Blackmore, a founder of the Academy, is first. "So, what are the plans for the future?" Travis Baxter points to value of ground-up events in local areas. Tim asks again: "But what are your plans?" Travis responds that we should ask our members. Ben Cooper again stresses local and regional branch involvement. Points out patrons are now bankrolling organisation.
  • Ben says that another comparable sponsor for the Awards, to take over from Sony, is very unlikely. He talks about possibility of setting up a company that might run a Festival+Awards day.
  • John Bradford, a former Radio Academy CEO in the audience, says that the Radio Academy already operates in this way: with a separate trading company, Radio Academy Trading Ltd.
  • Dave Walters: "Can you talk us through the financials?"
  • Ben Cooper asks John Myers to talk. John highlights the "two tent pole" strategy of focusing on the Festival + Awards, which was adopted in 2007-ish, and goes into a fair amount of history of the Sony sponsorship.
  • John Myers highlights that @radioacademy awards always planned to be loss-making in 2014. Right decision he says (agreed).
  • John Says that, with the absence of a confirmed sponsor for @radioacademy awards in 2015, harder to commit. Plus, Festival lost money this year. Bad luck and bad timing that Festival and Awards both lost money this year. Awards hugely important and must continue.
  • Dave Walters: "But why didn't you take corrective action earlier?" John: Ticket sales are very late for Festival. There's little opportunity for corrective action.
  • Alec Thomas: asks that staff are being correctly paid redundancy. Ben Cooper: Yes.
  • Sandy Warr: "We can't do the local events without the backup of the staff in the office, so where are we going?" Gloria responds: "I don't know. Local branches have been unloved. We should have an AGM in somewhere other than London, for example."
  • Sandy chases for an answer. Gloria replies "We couldn't afford the infrastructure. That is why we have had to close it." (And she's shouting.) Sandy Warr gets around of applause.
  • Tim Blackmore says that @radioacademy charity activities must continue legally.
  • (Personally: this is amazing. "We'll think of something" is still the Radio Academy position. How disappointing.)
  • Gillian Reynolds: If you only have money till the end of March, when will the EGM actually happen? Ben Cooper: February we hope. Gillian Reynolds was a founding member. She asks why she hasn't been asked for a subscription for many years.
  • John Bradford points out that the Festival existed before the Radio Academy, and the Awards was nothing to do with them initally either.
  • Another question from the floor: "Why keep an expensive CEO, when the requirement is actually for support?" Ben Cooper: "We have to sort out main fundamentals first."
  • Q from lady from podium.me: There are not very many people here under 25. Its about the new talent. Vital to include them and be affordable.
  • Danny Rose: if The Academy is owned by members, odd that you didn't involve them when you made the decision. He asks about new trustees - how will these be voted for, pointing at possibility of block voting. We should look carefully at that to avoid abuse, he says. BC agrees.
  • David Treadway, another founder member, stands up. "Ashamed and disappointed". "I don't hear any visions". "We need leadership. All I am hearing is vague statements." "Delighted that Trustees are, in effect, standing down. This is just nonsense."
  • Ben Cooper sound quite annoyed in response. He highlights his leadership qualities for Radio 1. The Trustees are not united in the way forward, he says. "I believe in the RA", he says
  • "I feel as if I was given a hospital pass by the previous chairman". (Not entirely sure what he means. But the previous chairman was Ashley Tabor).
  • Cooper: "We need to unchain ourselves from governance which has allowed Academy people to use it for their own ends." The Radio Festival should return to London. It should be open to other industries. Then an awards in the evening. That is my vision but it is not shared by all trustees. This has been like herding cats. That's why I have not talked about my personal vision.
  • (Thank goodness for that! A vision!)
  • Jez Nelson: "Can you clarify the differences within the trustees?" He appears to visibly gesture to a Global Radio representative. Cooper: "We had to act quickly. We need an open discussion."
  • Ben points out that BBC, Global and Bauer all have an Academy of their own. So why do we need another, has been a question.
  • Man from CMA: you should focus less on radio industry, and more on charity side. This is an opportunity.
  • Another question from the floor: Would the RA welcome a big sponsor? BC: we need to think about what the awards are first but yes. The amount of time that judges spend because they care about the awards is amazing. We must retain the robustness and meaning of the awards.
  • And that's it.

More information

The Radio Academy
Dedicated to the encouragement, recognition and promotion of excellence in UK radio broadcasting and audio production
James Cridland — James is the Managing Director of media.info, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. His website is at james.cridland.net, where you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
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Comments

2 years, 11 months ago

One question on the remark "BBC, Global and Bauer all have an Academy of their own. So why do we need another, has been a question." Was a big point made of this? I'm hoping it was just an ill-thought-out comment. If not it shows a concerning view from (some) trustees that we're better off in our organisational silos than as a collective, cooperative industry?

PRO2 years, 11 months ago

Hey, Andy - it was a comment made by Ben Cooper, reflecting some of the feedback he's had from ordinary folk, rather than feedback from Trustees.

I'd also add that the BBC and commercial radio both have their own award ceremonies, so the question could also be asked why bother with a kludgy awards for the entire industry when each part has its own more bespoke awards? (I don't agree with that either)

2 years, 11 months ago

Might this be a good moment to go back to first principles and ask what, and who, the Radio Academy is for? It's much easier to establish a vision for something where the purpose and deliverables are clear - and agreed. As some of the organisations already have their own academies as you point out, what could/should an overarching, independent, financially viable and hopefully collaborative Radio Academy offer that complements what's already on offer?

PRO2 years, 11 months ago

I think that's a great idea, Cathy. Let's turn it around and ask: what does the radio industry need?

To my mind, it needs...

  • an organisation which acts as a meeting place for all radio folk (BBC, commercial, community, hospital, podcasters, streamers)
  • an organisation which acts on behalf of radio folk (gets discounts, training, and speaks for the non-management worker)
  • an organisation which also acts on behalf of radio listeners too (and would have a view about the closure of 6music)
  • an organisation which lobbies in favour of radio to outsiders and the press, but which has a view if asked (is networking good, is DAB good, should we put cameras in studios?)

I don't think the RA can do half of the above. It needs to be an independent organisation, almost like a trade union but certainly not like an events company. And you'll notice I don't think awards are fundamental to this organisation, either.

2 years, 11 months ago

Over on my blog I've tidied up my initial reaction to last night's events.

Basically, even the Salford event was an expensive irrelevance to many up here - in the same way as Glasgow events are difficult for those outside Scotland's central belt.

"To most in the industry up here, where the Radio Festival took place was irrelevant. That’s was one of the reasons we worked so hard to get the two-day Creative Loop Student Media Festival off the ground and to ensure that we booked big names to have big thoughts."

"I’m wondering whether in Scotland we take that event and grow it a little to include sessions designed for people who already work in the industry, maybe even rolling in a couple of awards and so on. Let’s face it, the Scottish performance in the UK awards hasn’t exactly been awe inspiring of late and it would be wise to recognise and develop our best talent."

It's time for local branches to collect subs locally and operate in a way that's appropriate to their "market".

If they want to pay into a hub where economies of scale are possible, that's great and it might allow national (as opposed to London masquerading as national) events to happen.

2 years, 11 months ago

Something similar to the way the SRA organise their regional conference/workshops would be an interesting approach to investigate.

I'm not sure on how the funding could work, though John's suggestion is interesting. I suspect if you get a consistent brand across all the regions, the central pot of money could help source branding, pay for a website etc., all the sort of "economies of scale" type items which would otherwise repeat a lot of time and effort and use a lot of money if done per region.

2 years, 11 months ago

The difficulty is, as has already been mentioned, the organisation is really trying to appeal to two different audiences. The festival and local events really are for the radio professionals and the awards for the stations. Under the current funding structure, this really isn't represented.

In my opinion, some form of split, either completely or the funding structure only, would be the best way to see the funding worked through. Broadly, the stations would pay a subscription, based on their sizes, which would fund the awards alongside entry fees and any services related to stations specifically, and the radio professionals would fund the festival and local events, along with admission fees.

Of course, getting radio professionals to pay for something they were previously getting for free may be a difficulty. Bursary funding could be sourced and other benefits, such as those seen in chamber of commerces (a structure that may provide some ideas for this also). However, with a revised structure, it would allow a greater feel of membership in the organisation and control of its running, as well as acting more as a voice for the industry's workers.

2 years, 11 months ago

I have to say I was always uncomfortable with corporate entities becoming patrons and then their staff getting free membership. As we all know, things that are "free" are often valued less than things people pay for. The difficulty could be in getting enough members to pay to make it viable - though that in turn would force us to create events that appeal to our audiences.

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