by Connor Walsh
The Prix Europa is a broadcasting award that has been running in Berlin for about 30 years. It's the combination of a number of other awards for European TV, radio, fiction and documentary – with radio documentary remaining the prestige category. The venue is the splendid Haus des Rundunks, the 1930s building which now hosts Radio Brandemburg Berlin (RBB) – and, for that matter, a pater-noster. Sadly this year it was out of bounds, for safety.
Individual participation is free of charge, though European Broadcasting Union (EBU) broadcasters who take part may have some financial reaponsibilities. If a programme is selected for participation, a representative is expected to sit on the jury. Many of the 60 or so jurors though, like me, are not affiliated with any programme being judged. More about the programmes anon, but first, the logistics.
The process of listening, discussing, and voting is a key part of the Prix experience. After a jury briefing and reception on Saturday evening, we're straight into judging at 9:30 Sunday morning. First thing is to grab a pack of transcripts – every entry has a transcript in the original language with an English translation on the opposite page, and English is indeed the operating language of the Prix Europa.
By 4:30 you've listened to six features in groups of two or three. There are two subcategories: Documentary, and Investigation.
The programmes are played without continuity announcements before hand, though there is always a printed synopsis or intro available in the paperwork. After a break, the discussions begin. Coordinated by docs units heads from NRK Norway (Kari Hesthamar) and the BBC (Robert Ketteridge), each programme is discussed for about 15 minutes – or as long as it takes. A representative of the production is there to answer, at the end, specific questions that relate to the judging.
After that, jury members vote, one to ten, on the following criteria:
Documentary: Idea; development of idea; production, use of medium and acoustic quality; listenability/connecting with the listener; overall appeal.
Investigation: Relvance of subject; investigative work; quality of information; production, use of medium and acoustic quality; overall appeal.
Later, it's already dark outside and time for the other type of discussions: informal, one-to-one or indeed boozy groups. As with all such occasions, these discussions and the social element add huge value to the process – from ambitions to criticism, tech skills to reflections on our respective radio traditions. And boozy tales of excess.
It continues more or less to this structure until Thursday evening.