BBC World Service scoops four Sony Awards

The BBC World Service has swept the board in the journalism categories at this year’s Sony Radio Academy Awards.

The station walked away with four gold awards at last night’s ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, including a prize for Owen Bennett-Jones, who was named journalist of the year.

The World Service user-generated news programme, World Have Your Say – where listeners dictate the agenda and occasionally co-present the show itself – won the listener participation award.

The win was followed by a multiplatform radio award for the station’s Bangladesh Boat Project, in which journalists embarked on an epic month-long voyage by river sailing through the wet-lands of Bangladesh to examine the impact of climate change.

The World Service programme Newshour brought the awards tally to four, winning best news and currrent affairs programme and beating Radio 4’s flagship investigative strand File on 4 to the title.

Journalist of the year Owen Bennett-Jones was described by judges as a broadcaster who “excels both as a studio interviewer and a reporter in the field”.

Accepting his award on stage, he said a busy year of world news in Pakistan, Burma, Kenya and Zimbabwe had helped the World Service make its mark.

“It’s good to come out of the shadows,” he said. “At the World Service occasionally we live in obscurity. We’re delighted tonight to have a slightly higher profile.”

Eamonn Mallie, the veteran political correspondent for Bauer-owned Downtown Radio, picked up the Sony lifetime achievement award for his work covering the political tensions in Northern Ireland.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Mallie was praised by judges for his “persistent demand for the truth”.

“I just did my job,” Mallie said. “So many of my contemporaries are dead. I could reel off 10, 20, 30 people who were killed in the troubles at the hands of paramilitants, and also at the hands of the state. I think it’s time for forgiveness.”

Bauer also celebrated a win for its Liverpool radio station, Radio City, which beat BBC Radio FiveLive and Guardian.co.uk to the sports programme award for an investigation into how hundreds of football tickets were falling into the hands of touts.

The Guardian did, however, win a silver award for its Islamophonic podcast in the internet programme award – a category which this year also included a nomination for rival Times Online.

The news feature award went to the BBC Asian Network for its investigation into how pregnant British Asian women were flying to India to test the gender of their baby and then aborting them if they were female.

FiveLive presenter Simon Mayo beat Radio 4’s James Naughtie and John Humphrys to take the award for speech broadcaster of the year.

Accepting his award, he said: “It’s great to beat Jim and John from the Today programme – the Ant and Dec of breakfast radio, not in a corrupt way, you understand.”

BBC Radio Ulster won the breaking news award for its coverage of a murder inquiry following the death of a family of seven in an Omagh house fire.

The overall award for radio station of the year went to BBC Radio 4 and was collected by its controller, Mark Damazer.

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