Real success for GMG as it leads the way at IRN Awards

Smooth FM newsreader Howard Hughes picked up the special award at last week's IRN Awards for his extraordinary contribution to commercial radio journalism.

Hughes, whose career in radio spans 20 years and has taken him from commercial radio to the BBC and back again, said the awards highlighted the talent in commercial radio.

"What I see today is the strength of talent in the industry which shows that commercial radio has a future," he said.

The managing director of IRN, John Perkins, said the awards proved there was good journalism in commercial radio, and described the Sony Radio Academy Awards as "a ritual slaughter of commercial radio". Last year, commercial stations went home with around 10 per cent of the prizes despite attracting around 50 per cent of the audience.Perkins, who is chair of the Sony judges in the best news programme category said: "What distresses me is that commercial radio never wins [in this category]. This is an attempt to redress the balance."

He said every entry for best news programme in the IRN Awards was "every bit as good as BBC entries".

Real Radio Wales picked up an award for its package commemorating the 40th anniversary of Aberfan.

Perkins told Press Gazette many commercial stations simply did not have the resources to spend time putting together a contribution for an award.

"It takes a long time and effort to put together a good contribution for an award, and commercial stations often don't have the time to put together an entry, because they're quite small. So as a Sony judge you end up with far more BBC entries, often far better presented.I think that's a terrible shame and a terrible waste — there is very good news material out there but it somehow doesn't seem to get recognised."

The IRN contribution award went to Real Radio Scotland, which provided IRN's national news desk with a number of lead stories over the past year. Its reporter, Colin MacKay won reporter of the year for his interview with Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell, who revealed he would not be supporting England in the World Cup — an exclusive picked up by the UK and international media.

Real Radio Yorkshire picked up two awards — the first was for best sports coverage for its reporting on Sheffield United's path to the Premiership. The second was for best funny story, for a report in which an elderly Italian lady sang (rather badly) over opera music in celebration of Italy winning the football World Cup in 2006.

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