RTS Television Journalism Awards: Four prizes for Syrian film-maker who covered the siege of Aleppo for Channel 4

A Syrian film-maker who risked her life to report on the siege of Aleppo picked up four prizes at the RTS Television Journalism Awards in London last night.

The film-maker, who goes by the pseudonym Waad Al-Kateab, escaped to Turkey after the city was taken by Syrian government forces at the end of 2016 along with her husband and baby daughter.

Her films, which have been viewed millions of times of Youtube, included footage showing a new-born baby being resuscitated after doctors were forced to perform an emergency cesarean on a woman, who had been hit by shrapnel.

She received the prizes for young talent and best camera operator and was also part of the team that picked up the prize for news coverage for Channel 4 News’ Inside Aleppo report.

Her film on The Last Flower Seller of Aleppo picked up the independent award.

Matt Frei of Channel 4 News was named television journalist of the year and his programme was also named daily news programme of the year.

Sky News won the breaking news award for its coverage of the Brussels Terror Attack and also picked up the scoop of the year for its IS Files report.

The Judges’ Award, was awarded posthumously to BBC broadcaster Steve Hewlett, who died of cancer on 20 February.

Presenting the award to his sons, awards chair Stewart Purvis said: “I don’t think there has ever been anybody in broadcasting quite like Steve Hewlett. And probably never will be again.

“Over four decades he variously, and often simultaneously, produced programmes; edited them; commissioned them; wrote and broadcast about them; presented them and exec produced them as an independent. He worked for the BBC, Channel Four, ITV and his own indie Genie Pictures.  He started on TV and learned to love radio. He was the star turn for many years at RTS Cambridge, Edinburgh and Sheffield festivals and many other media events.

“One of the hallmarks of Steve’s journalism was his natural curiosity – which contact or interviewee could resist an opening line like ‘help me with this if you can’. Another was his attention to detail, as a pundit he read the documents others didn’t, which is how he knew so much and questioned so much, especially his own employers at the BBC.

“And there was his humanity and there was his humour. All these same qualities, this same journalism, came to the fore last year on the Radio 4 PM Programme.”

Purvis also announced the launch of the Steve Hewlett Scholarship, an initiative by the RTS and The Media Society, which will be presented each year to one recipient from a lower income family studying an undergraduate broadcast journalism course in the UK.

 The RTS Television Journalism Awards winners for 2016:

Breaking News
Brussels Terror Attack Sky News
“The winning team had the good fortune to find themselves in the midst of an unfolding drama and built on that by using every ounce of journalistic enterprise and technical skill – as well as considerable courage – to deliver a textbook example of how to cover a breaking story.”

Camera Operator of the Year
Waad al-Kateab – Channel 4 News ITN for Channel 4
“With many strong contenders, our winner’s portfolio was head and shoulders above the rest. Her powerful images didn’t flinch from showing the full horror of life and death in Aleppo.”

Current Affairs – Home
Interview with a Murderer ITN Productions / Monster Films for Channel 4
“… a brilliant and gripping film, which was also beautifully made. It was a compelling watch, right from the first frame and the final interview was a genuine scoop!”

Current Affairs – International
Exposure – Saudi Arabia Uncovered Hardcash Productions for ITV
“…this was an extremely brave film. Venturing into Saudi Arabia undercover was a remarkable feat. This is an important country which we hardly ever see, beyond the official veneer. The film brought to life the extent of the power and the fear which lies under the surface. The viewer really experienced the journey.  An important piece of journalism and a great watch, beautifully shot and full of fine production values.”

Daily News Programme of the Year
Channel 4 News ITN for Channel 4
“The winning programme demonstrated a masterful breadth and depth of content throughout the year, from world-class frontline coverage to their trademark political analysis and powerful interviews. They backed that up with tenacious and exclusive investigations and high quality location presentation.”

Interview of the Year
Faisal Islam Interviews David Cameron Sky News
“The shortlist featured three interviewers at the top of their game. The hallmark of all three was that they seemed better prepared than their interviewees. This was particularly so in the case of the winner who, approaching what was fast becoming very familiar territory, brought new insights and energy to the national debate. He highlighted a weak point in his guest’s case that was never properly answered and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Nations and Regions Current Affairs
Spotlight – The NAMA Tapes: Corruption and Cover Up BBC Northern Ireland
“Financial corruption stories are never easy to do. The Northern Ireland team worked unbelievably hard and bravely over 18 months to expose corruption over the sale of a £1.3 billion property portfolio. This was an extraordinary and incredibly important story as well as a gripping watch. The programme has accelerated police and parliamentary enquiries on both sides of the Irish border.”

Nations and Regions News
BBC South East Today BBC News English Regions for BBC One
“A brilliant selection of the very best of regional journalism, from illegal immigrants working in Kent and Sussex to tracking down a gunman who’d been on the run for a decade. The abuse story at a Kent care home was astonishing and led to a parliamentary investigation. The Calais ambush by people smugglers was riveting television and went on to be picked up nationally. Amazing journalism from a small region that exhibited real ambition.”

Network Presenter of the Year
Tom Bradby – ITV News at Ten ITN for ITV News
“The winners’ portfolio included presenting news programmes, anchoring special events, on the road reporting and chairing debates. The presenting was done in a new style, ‘intimate, engaging, authoritative, trustworthy’ just some of the adjectives they used. The winner got to the heart of the matter sometimes very directly with the newsmakers themselves.”

News Channel of the Year
BBC News Channel
“The winning channel combined outstanding live and continuous coverage of big events with strong worldwide reporting and a great touch with human interest stories. They were quick on breaking news and showcased an impressive range of exclusives too.”

News Coverage – Home
Prisons – 6 and 10 O’clock News BBC News for BBC One
“This year’s Home News award goes to a series of revelatory films which prefigured one of the big domestic crises of the year. They were the result of remarkable access gained through dogged negotiation over a long period of time. The coverage across a number of exclusive reports identified a shocking picture which led to a major public debate and changes in policy.”

News Coverage – International
Inside Aleppo – Channel 4 News ITN for Channel 4
“In a year of extraordinary coverage of appalling wars, this insight into Aleppo was something very special. Our judges described it as remarkable, compelling and the yardstick by which other coverage should be judged. Matt Frei’s scripting was word perfect. With a digital project alongside, the coverage was imaginative and innovative and ticked the enterprise box too.”

News Technology
Sky Data Sky News
“…a brilliant example of technical innovation. It has transformed the way television measures public opinion, leaving the old vox pop obsolete. The team should be congratulated on using existing customer information to make a research panel of up to 10,000,000 people.”

Regional Presenter of the Year
Harry Gration – BBC Look North (Yorkshire) BBC News English Regions for BBC Yorkshire
“Outstanding, a class act…when the winner is on the screen, you simply want to watch. He is deeply rooted in his region and exhibits a genuine affinity with his audience and demonstrates both depth and range.”

Scoop of the Year
I.S. Files Sky News
“…a team effort which brilliantly exploited a leak of data, transforming it into compelling television using the entire toolbox of TV news. This dwarfed in scale, skill and significance other attempts at the story, leading to the arrest of suspects.”

Specialist Journalist of the Year
Lisa Holland Sky News
“This year’s Specialist Journalist of the year has carved out a unique role in a new but crucial specialist position. It has taken them around the world to report on one of the year’s most controversial and pressing issues. They showed a great range of skills pursuing the story, from investigation to analysis to empathy.”

Television Journalist of the Year
Matt Frei – Channel 4 News ITN for Channel 4
“One of the best writers in the business. His use of language brings great depth to his reports and regularly shines through. His interviewing has also produced insights which others have missed. He is one of the most experienced, and skilled TV journalists working today.”

The Independent Award
The Last Flower Seller of Aleppo – Channel 4 News Hoodwink Productions for Channel 4
“A fabulously powerful piece of television…The jurors applauded not only the enterprise and courage of the freelance camera operator who first suggested the story and then filmed it, but also the production company back in London who in the edit crafted a narrative that made this stand out as strong storytelling.”

Young Talent of the Year
Waad al-Kateab – Channel 4 News ITN for Channel 4
“…heart stopping, calm in horrific conditions, sensitive, empathetic, extraordinary – the compliments kept on coming.”

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