THE BLOG

The Golden Age of TV Shines on as Winners of the BPG Awards Are Announced

28/03/2014 16:20 GMT | Updated 27/05/2014 10:59 BST

It was Broadchurch wot won it. One programme has a habit of dominating the Broadcasting Press Guild awards in recent years. Last year it was Tom Stoppard's BBC2 adaptation, Parade's End; the year before that it was the same channel's Tom Hollander sitcom, Rev.

This year it was Chris Chibnall's ITV murder mystery that captured our members' imagination. Everyone compared Broadchurch to The Killing. Well, everyone except Chibnall, who first pitched the idea for the drama 10 years ago.

Broadchurch took a hat-trick of prizes at today's awards, sponsored by Discovery Channel, including Best Drama Series, the Best Writer's prize for Chibnall and Best Actress for Olivia Colman, who starred opposite David Tennant, for her extraordinary turn as DS Ellie Miller.

Kevin Spacey told last year's Edinburgh TV festival that the small screen had entered a new golden age, and in UK television drama there was evidence of that in spades. Not just Broadchurch but The Fall and Top of the Lake, both on BBC2 (and both BPG nominees), Utopia and Southcliffe on Channel 4 and intriguing one-offs such as BBC2's The Wipers Times, co-written by Ian Hislop, another BPG winner.

Broadchurch will be back, as will Allan Cubitt's The Fall, starring the winner of this year's BPG Breakthrough Award, Jamie Dornan, two of the most eagerly awaited dramas of the year. The first series of Jed Mercurio's Line of Duty on BBC2 missed out at awards time two years ago; expect it to loom large next year.

The BPG awards, now in their 40th year, are unique because they are the only ones voted for by people who write about TV and radio for a living, including reviewers, feature writers and media correspondents.

If it is a golden age for television then it is also an uncertain one, with a revolution in the way we watch TV in the Netflix/iPlayer/Sky+ era. Linear TV still rules - witness the outcry over the looming closure of the BBC3 TV channel - but the shift to on-demand gains pace, with a record 3 billion TV and radio programmes requested on the BBC's iPlayer, led by the reassuringly old-school, BBC2's Top Gear.

It is a shift reflected by the BPG's innovation award, which this year went to BSkyB reflecting 25 years of pushing the envelope, from its innovative coverage on its news and sport channels to Sky+, HD, 3D, with particular recognition from our members for its mobile TV apps.

The way we fund our biggest shows is also changing, with UK broadcasters looking overseas with increasing regularity to fund their blockbuster dramas - witness BBC2's Top of the Lake (again), made with the Sundance Channel in the US and UKTV in Australia/New Zealand, and another BPG winner, Sky Atlantic's The Tunnel, the most literal of cross-border tie-ups between Sky and Canal+.

Greg Dyke used to talk about the "800lb gorillas" in UK broadcasting - the BBC, BSkyB and ITV (until its dramatic ITV Digital weight loss). Now the challenge is coming from overseas and the tech giants like Google, Apple, Netflix, Amazon.

The BBC's drama chief Ben Stephenson told journalists last month: "With Netflix and Amazon, I think there are 94 broadcasters, to use a conventional word, making drama in America ... I see them as things that make us better." Forget about the late Sir David Frost's global village - welcome to the worldwide living room.

Other themes of 2013? Channel 4, after a year or two in the doldrums (Paralympics aside), staged a critical revival if not yet a commercial one, a triple BPG winner with Educating Yorkshire, the most moving television of the year; Syria: Across The Lines, some of the most disturbing; and one of the simplest - and most innovative - formats of them all, Gogglebox.

Former Channel 4 Chief Executive Michael Grade has argued that the broadcaster should be able to compete for a slice of the licence fee because advertising would no longer cut the mustard (a suggestion politely refuted by C4).

What happens to the licence fee, and the role and remit of the BBC when its charter is renewed, will be one of the great topics of discussion in the months (and years) ahead.

How today's TV landscape would look to a time traveller from 1974, and the first BPG awards, is hard to imagine; how television will look in 2054 tougher still.

Back in 1974, Doctor Who fans were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new doctor (Tom Baker) after Jon Pertwee stepped down and the final series of Monty Python came to an end on the BBC. With Peter Capaldi about to take over the Tardis from Matt Smith, it is reassuring to know that some things don't change.

Broadcasting Press Guild Awards 2014 Winners

Best Single Drama

The Wipers Times (BBC2)

Best Drama Series

Broadchurch (ITV)

Best Single Documentary

Syria: Across the Lines (Channel 4)

Best Documentary Series

Educating Yorkshire (Channel 4)

Best Entertainment/Comedy

Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1)

Best Multichannel Programme

The Tunnel (Sky Atlantic)

Best Factual Entertainment

Gogglebox (Channel 4)

Best Actor

Chiwetel Ejiofor - Dancing on the Edge (BBC2)

Best Actress

Olivia Colman - Broadchurch (ITV)

Best Writer

Chris Chibnall - Broadchurch (ITV)

Breakthrough Award

Jamie Dornan (The Fall)

Innovation Award

Sky TV - for 25 years of innovation

Harvey Lee Award for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting

Andrew Davies

The BPG Awards 2014, sponsored by Discovery Channel, took place earlier today at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.