A celebration of an exploding new entertainment form, these awards give a sense of what's on offer for ears of all kinds.
Image: The team behind SBS podcast Eyes on Gilead, which won the 2019 Australian Podcast Award for 'Best Fan Cast'. L-R: Producer Dan Barrett, hosts Fiona Williams, Sana Qadar, & Natalie Hambly, and audio producer Jeremy Wilmot. Source: SBS.
Most of the country was preoccupied by a contest of another kind on Saturday night when the third annual celebration of Australian podcasting took place in Sydney's Seymour Centre. Indeed, Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb, the hosts of one of the night's big winners, Chat 10 Looks 3, could not attend as they were otherwise engaged doing live election coverage. Their chatty, intelligent female-centric show won in two categories: Literature, Arts & Music; and TV, Film & Pop Culture. Their thanks for the awards was sent in by pre-recorded video.
Other big winners on the night included Wrong Skin, a true crime podcast from The Age, about the 1994 disappearance and death of two Indigenous young adults in the Kimberley. Wrong Skin won the award for Investigative Journalism and True Crime, as well as the Podcast of the Year award.
Tony Martin's Sizzletown won both the Comedy award and the Yamaha Prize for Outstanding Podcast Production, and Martin himself was one of the big stars attending on the night.
Politics was never too far away though. On a world scale, Russia, If You're Listening, a podcast about Trump and the Mueller investigation, picked up the award for Political, Social & Cultural Affairs; and Eyes On Gilead: A Handmaid's Tale Podcast won Best Fancast for its recap show celebrating the second season of the scarily prescient TV series based on Margaret Attwood's dystopic novel. The Handmaid's Tale is without a doubt SBS's number one rating drama, and the podcast has been similarly popular, regularly landing in iTunes Top Tens.
Fiona Williams, one of the hosts of Eyes on Gilead, and also Managing Editor of SBS Movies, told Screenhub she was rapt with the award, and also a little surprised. 'The pressure is definitely on for the next season,' she says, which starts on SBS next month.
Eyes on Gilead was born when Williams and fellow SBS writer Dan Barrett talked about some of the broadcaster's other fan-based podcasts Batmanland and The Good Fight. 'One of the things we do in my team is to try to engage audiences and deepen their relationship with the content. The Handmaid's Tale is a show that just leaves you with so many questions and emotions at the end of each episode, and it has an eerie way of echoing what's going on in the world today. The podcast was a way of allowing a debrief, and of extending and broadening the relationship with the audience.'
Williams was surprised to be nominated in the newly created 'fancast' category, as her show had originally been entered into the 'TV, Film & Pop Culture' category. 'I guess it's because we go deep on a single piece of content,' she says. 'Our category mates were all obsessing about a particular thing like we were, whereas the TV, Movies and Pop Culture category are all more broad and covering more disparate things every week. That's how I rationalise it!'
In case you're wondering, the other nominees for Best Fancast were Neighbuzz: The Neighbours Recap Podcast, Club Soderbergh, Brink of Reality, But I don't Wanna be a Secondary Character! - A Seinfeld Podcast, and One Heat Minute. We will not use the word 'rabid' to describe these fans, though it does seem that podcasting is the perfect medium for compulsive and obsessive deep divers.
Entries for the awards are self-nominated, though all but two of the 22 winners are determined by judges, who are selected by an advisory panel. This is composed of Radio National's Claudia Taranto, Sharon Taylor of Omny Studio, and Helen Wolfenden, lecturer in radio at Macquarie University. The remaining two awards were popular categories voted for by the public, and a little bit of cheating surrounded that this year, with organisers having to modify the process.
The Australian Podcast Awards were created by Dave Gertler, a Sydney-based independent podcaster and social media worker who, according to the website, 'realised the industry was beginning to mature, and would benefit from the establishment of a healthy awards ceremony.' The first awards were held in 2016 (then known as the Cast Away Awards), and the next year in Melbourne. This year there were more entrants (more than 300), bigger sponsors and more prizes ($10,000 worth).
Whether you agree on the worthiness of the winners or not, as a complete list they're a good survey of the diversity on offer in this new entertainment form that has its roots in radio, and its home on our phone screens.
ENTIRE LIST OF 2019 AUSTRALIAN PODCASTING AWARDS WINNERS:
For more information on The Australian Podcast Awards website.