The Broadcasting Press Guild is Britain's professional association of journalists who write about TV and radio, and our awards are the biggest event in our annual calendar. The awards present a rare opportunity to the hacks who vote in them: the chance to be unstintingly nice about the programmes that we select.
I chair the Nominations Committee which, by comparison to the judging processes for other TV awards, has an odd role to play. It neither creates the shortlists, which are published today, nor picks the winners. Both of those things - again, I believe, uniquely to the BPG - are done by democratic votes of all our members. What the Nominations Committee does is to whittle down the entirety of a year of British television, to longlists of 15 to 20 programmes. We invite broadcasters' nominations of their finest work, but we also add suggestions from our broader membership - and from the nominations committee members themselves.
It was a cold January night when we gathered in Soho for this year's meeting. But things soon warmed up, with - how shall I put this delicately - divergent views expressed passionately around the table. Our Nominations Committee members have very different tastes - and thank goodness for that - but what they all have in common is a deep and broad expertise in evaluating TV programmes. This year I was joined by Vicky Frost from The Guardian, Steve Clarke from Variety, Alison Graham from Radio Times, Robin Parker from Broadcast, The Guardian's John Plunkett and Simon Horsford from The Daily Telegraph.
What I realised was that 2012 had been a vintage year for British TV. The biggest scoop of the year - about Jimmy Savile's unsavoury activities - came from an ITV documentary. Contemporary events had also been parodied with biting skill, in BBC Two's The Thick of It and Twenty Twelve. And then, of course, there were the Games themselves, from the first strains of Jerusalem in Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony to the last song by Coldplay as the Paralympics closed. Surely only in Britain do we have not one but two public service broadcasters, of the calibre of the BBC and Channel 4, to put on such a magnificent show. Last year also reaffirmed the scale and quality of the output from Britain's pay-TV broadcasters such as Discovery Channel, who are supporting the BPG awards.
The BGP Shortlist 2013 - who gets your vote?
Best Single Drama
Best Possible Taste: the Kenny Everett Story (BBC Four)
The Hollow Crown: Richard II (BBC Two)
Loving Miss Hatto (BBC One)
Murder (BBC Two)
Best Drama Series
Last Tango in Halifax (BBC One)
Line of Duty (BBC Two)
Parade's End (BBC Two)
Sherlock (BBC One)
Best Single Documentary
Arena: Jonathan Miller (BBC Four)
Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile (ITV1)
London: The Modern Babylon (BBC Two)
Storyville: Fire in Babylon (BBC Four)
Best Documentary Series
Grayson Perry: All in the Best Possible Taste (Channel 4)
Inside Claridge's (BBC Two)
Meet the Romans with Mary Beard (BBC Two)
Putin, Russia and The West (BBC Two)
Secret History of Our Streets (BBC Two)
Fresh Meat (Channel 4)
Twenty Twelve (BBC Two)
The Thick of It (BBC Two)
Dynamo: Magician Impossible (UKTV/Watch)
Hunderby (Sky Atlantic)
Moone Boy (Sky1)
Best Factual Entertainment
Great British Bake Off (BBC Two)
MasterChef: The Professionals (BBC Two)
Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC One)
Paul O'Grady: for the Love of Dogs (ITV1)
Roger Allam (Parade's End, The Thick of It)
Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, The Hour)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Parade's End)
Ben Whishaw (The Hollow Crown: Richard II, The Hour)
Anna Chancellor (Pramface, The Hour)
Olivia Colman (Accused, Twenty Twelve)
Rebecca Hall (Parade's End)
Sienna Miller (The Girl)
Maxine Peake (Silk, Room at the Top)
BPG Writer's Award
John Morton (Twenty Twelve)
Sir Tom Stoppard (Parade's End)
Sally Wainwright (Last Tango; Scott & Bailey)
Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock)
BPG Breakthrough Award
Clare Balding, Olympics & Paralympics presenting
Adam Hills, The Last Leg (Paralympics)
Jack Whitehall, Fresh Meat & Bad Education
Once our Nominations Committee had created the longlists, they went to the membership for a first-round vote, which results in the shortlists you see today. There's then a second-round vote to pick the ultimate winners, which will be announced on March 14 at a glamorous winners' lunch in central London.
The great virtue of democracy, of course, is that each individual member hopes to see some choices on the final shortlists that they have been cheering all along: I'm delighted to see Sally Wainwright nominated in the writers' category - and her pitch-perfect drama series about septuagenarian love in my native Yorkshire, Last Tango in Halifax, up for best Drama Series. And the remarkable access of Inside Claridge's is a worthy nod in the Best Documentary Series category.
Of course, only my fellow members can decide whether they agree and we'll be all be tweeting on the day, with tweets gathered on the BPG website. So for now, it's time for me to hang up my chairman's robes - and wait to find out who, in 2013, will be the worthy Broadcasting Press Guild Award winners.
The BPG awards take place on Thursday 14th March 2013 and are sponsored by Discovery Channel which champions intelligent entertainment. Discovery Networks UK has 12 channel brands in the UK covering factual, lifestyle and entertainment programming.
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