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Stirling Prize ceremony will not be televised

This year’s Stirling Prize ceremony will not be broadcast on television for the first time in more than a decade.

In a move understood to be linked to television companies’ cuts in spending on arts, the RIBA’s flagship event will instead form part of a half-hour Culture Show special on architecture.

Last October, for the first time since broadcasting of the event began in 2000, the BBC pre-recorded the showpiece ceremony, held at Wilkinson Eyre’s Magna Centre in Rotherham. The programme was aired a day later at 5pm on a Sunday. Dismal viewing figures released a week later revealed the audience had halved from the previous year to about 279,800.

The RIBA insisted the new approach would reinvigorate an old-fashioned format. A spokesperson said: ‘Filming a seated dinner has become a rather outdated format for TV and one that doesn’t necessarily appeal to the audiences we and our members wish to reach. We are keen to do things differently this year and to focus more on celebrating the buildings and the work of talented design teams and enlightened clients.’

President elect Stephen Hodder addied that the event would still ‘be streamed on the RIBA’s website’.

A spokesperson for the BBC said: ‘[We] remain committed to the Stirling Prize. The Culture Show as a whole has changed its format, moving to a peak time slot and reducing to half an hour from an hour. This is so it can be on air throughout the year. So, overall, there is more opportunity for the show to cover architecture across the year.’

Leanne Tritton, of ING Media, said:‘The secret to televised awards programmes is very simple and there is a reason they are dominated by the entertainment industry. Instant recognition of the award winners by the audience and great frocks that either shock or rock. Tears and tiaras.

The format for the Stirling Prize has never worked

She added: ‘That is precisely why the RIBA is right to change the format for the Stirling Prize - it has never worked. It has been a compromise for all concerned – the live audience who want to enjoy the event and care about the inter-industry gossip and the audience at home who have almost no interest or awareness of the faces that the camera pans over. Understated intelligence and elegance is not compatible with compelling TV.

Triton concluded: ‘However, as Grand Designs has proven – the public have a huge appetite for the buildings and their back stories. The RIBA’s challenge is to protect the ‘time slot’ allocated to the Stirling and bring the drama of the buildings to the small screen.

Will Alsop, a previous Stirling Prize winner added: ‘There are now too many awards and too many ceremonies, not only in architecture.

‘There should be more programmes on architecture and The Culture Show is not a bad vehicle. [However] it is a pity the BBC has to wait for the Stirling Prize for an architecturally themed episode. Pehaps there could be six a year.’

Alsop concluded: ‘If the RIBA got Prince Charles to give the awards, the slot would be given back’.

Other comments:

Mark Bell who is the Commissioning Editor for Arts: ‘The BBC will continue to cover the Stirling Prize as part of a special architecture-themed edition of the Culture Show, and as in previous years we will provide insight and commentary on the shortlist and the state of British architecture.  We have taken the view that the audience will be more interested in the work than the prize dinner which is primarily an industry event.’

Matt Yeoman of Buckley Gray Yeoman: ‘In the world of TV, “history” and “domestic” seem to be the key areas to cover if you wish to achieve  good viewing ratings with an architectural programme. This is typified by the British notion that “every man’s home is his castle”. What the general viewing public seem less interested in is the  world of contemporary, recently built, non-domestic modern architecture.
Or is it perhaps that we are getting bored with the same small list of nominees (not to mention winners). Zaha Hadid, two years in a row?… You don’t see that when you tune into the excitement of the Booker or Turner.’

Alan Berman of Berman Guerddes Stretton: ‘It is sad that the Beeb gives so much air time to arcane and esoteric arts events attended by the few, but reduces its coverage of the mother of all arts which affects the quality of life for the many.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • To state that 'Understated intelligence and elegance is not compatible with compelling TV' is another example of the distinct lack of understanding of the viewers on the part of television executives. Some viewers are actually interested and intelligent and the deletion or 'dumbing down' of so many programmes nowadays does nothing to promote or encourage learning for anyone, regardless of their ability or intelligence.

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