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BPG Awards - Sceptics Who Forecast the Death of TV in the Internet Age Have Been Proven Wrong

13/03/2015 15:09 GMT | Updated 13/05/2015 10:59 BST

Lenny Henry was the big winner at today's Broadcasting Press Guild Awards where he was given the most prestigious gong, the Harvey Lee Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting award.

Lenny is the TV star who has smashed stereotypes - first by becoming Britain's leading black comedian and then by using his position to raise money for charity around the world and to fight for greater racial diversity in broadcasting.

His triumph is doubly appropriate this year. First, it is the 30th anniversary of Comic Relief, which he co-founded, and today is Red Nose Day, when he is on our TV screens raising yet more money. Second, his long campaign against what he calls the "appalling" lack of diversity, both in front of and behind the camera, has finally paid off as the biggest broadcasters, including the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky, have committed to recruit more black, Asian, minority ethnic and disabled talent.

This year's BPG Awards, sponsored by the broadcaster Discovery Networks, were a celebration of mavericks, outsiders and those willing to challenge the status quo.

Look at the success of Marvellous, about Stoke City football club obsessive Neil Baldwin's relentlessly upbeat view of life, which won best single drama and also helped Toby Jones win best male actor - along with his role in Detectorists, a quirky series about two eccentric but charming treasure-hunters.

Then there was the best documentary series, Benefits Street, about how the poorest in society were struggling in the wake of the government's austerity cuts, and best single documentary, which was awarded to Baby P: The Untold Story for revealing how the authorities' failure to prevent that little boy's death went much further than previously thought.

The BPG's Innovation in Broadcasting gong, one of our top awards, went to another maverick - Vice News, the online start-up which set up in London only a year ago and has produced ground-breaking reports on Islamic State and the war in Ukraine.

These awards matter because they are the only ones that are judged by people who write about broadcasting for living. As an association of TV and radio correspondents and reviewers, we at the BPG take this industry seriously.

The status quo is certainly under threat because technology is changing the way we watch and listen to TV and radio - and it feels like this change is accelerating, whether it is people binge-viewing House of Cards season three on Netflix or listening to the radio podcast Serial or Radio 1's Zane Lowe getting poached by Apple or YouTube vlogger Zoella topping the book charts.

So we asked ourselves as judges this year: Have we reached a tipping-point? Should we consider online-first or online-only shows on a par with what is commissioned and broadcast first on traditional linear TV channels?

This was a difficult decision for the judges. BBC3 is, controversially, due to go online-only and figures from Thinkbox, the trade body for commercial TV in Britain, show viewing on the traditional TV screen fell almost five per cent last year, while viewing on other screens like mobile phones and tablets jumped 17%.

But after a long debate, we decided this year's main awards should still be restricted to shows that were commissioned and aired first on traditional TV channels and radio stations.

We felt we haven't yet got to the tipping-point where broadcast and online are equals. However, we could very soon, so we decided that, for the first time, we would only consider online-first commissions for the Innovation Award that went to Vice News.

You can expect more changes by the time of our next awards. With a general election in two months and the BBC licence fee up for debate, the landscape could shift quickly.

Ultimately, the purpose of the BPG Awards is to celebrate the best of British broadcasting and that is why it was so pleasing to see so many high-quality shows being rewarded - from Sheridan Smith, winner of best female actor, in Cilla and The Widower to Sally Wainwright, who won the best writer award for Last Tango In Halifax and Happy Valley.

The sceptics who forecast the death of TV in the internet age have been proven wrong. For proof, look no further than the winner of our best factual entertainment show, Gogglebox, a show about people watching people watching TV. It's what we love to do.

The full list of BPG Award 2015 winners:

  • Best Factual Entertainment - Gogglebox (Channel 4)
  • Best Single Drama - Marvellous (BBC2)
  • Best Drama Series - The Honourable Woman (BBC2)
  • Best Single Documentary - Baby P: The Untold Story (BBC1)
  • Best Documentary Series - Benefits Street (Channel 4)
  • Best Multichannel Programme - Crackanory (Dave)
  • Best Radio Programme - Germany: Memories of a Nation (BBC Radio 4)
  • Best Radio Broadcaster - Jane Garvey (Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4)
  • Best Entertainment/Comedy - W1A (BBC2)
  • Writer's Award - Sally Wainwright (Last Tango In Halifax and Happy Valley)
  • Best Actress - Sheridan Smith (Cilla and The Widower)
  • Best Actor - Toby Jones (Marvellous and Detectorists)
  • Breakthrough Award - Harry and Jack Williams, writers of The Missing (BBC1)
  • Innovation in Broadcasting Award - Vice News for Islamic State and other original commissions
  • Harvey Lee Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting - Lenny Henry