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A Logie award should be worth its weight in ‘gold’

Australia's television industry isn't giving itself due credit as long as it validates the Logies, says Matt Smith.

First published on The Punch on 25th January, 2012.

Voting is now open for TV Week’s Logie Awards, have you got your vote in? No? That’s not surprising. I’m sure that most people in Australia would give the same answer.

It’s strange that we place so much emphasis on these awards in Australia’s television industry. TV Week claims a weekly readership of 759,000, and their key demographic of teenage girls is hardly representative of the Australian population. There’s a reason that Kylie Minogue took out the Gold Logie in 1988 at 19.

And yet until 2011, this key readership was charged with choosing what is classed as ‘the best’ that Australian television has to offer. The process has definitely improved by opening the voting up to everyone via the internet, and not just those that sent in magazine cuttings with their votes. But the fact that we’re making it a popularity contest open to the public is a flawed system.

Let’s first look at how the voting system currently works. Firstly, to lodge your vote you need to wade through and decide on at least eight categories, most of which you won’t really care about. There are a whopping 90 actors you can choose from who are up for the silver logie for most popular actor, with similar numbers up for grabs in popular actress and popular presenter.

Add to this other categories covering emerging actors and actresses, categories covering sports, lifestyle, factual and reality, and it’s quite an undertaking to narrow it all down and put your vote in.

Only those who can stomach to part with all their personal information to TV Week will count themselves amongst the small number who lodge a vote.

But what’s the problem with this, you’ll surely point out? It clearly means that only the dedicated viewers glued to their television screens make the decision, and surely those are the votes that count the most.

Well, yes, and no. Such a system is very much open to vote rigging (and there have been suspicions that television networks have taken part in such activities in the past), and even voting bias in the way the names are sorted – alphabetical order by first name rather than random gives those with names beginning with early letters an advantage.

Similar voting biases were found by economist Dr Liam Lenten when examining song names and voting in the popular music poll Triple J Hottest 100.

The other notable flaw of the Logies is how much the commercial stations throw their weight into promoting the nominees. This leaves public broadcaster ABC at a distinct disadvantage by their own rules, as such campaigning is viewed as commercial promotion for TV Week overlords ACP magazine, and therefore contravening the ABC charter.

This aspect of the popularity contest leads to embarrassments such as morning television shambler Karl Stefanovic winning the Gold Logie in 2011, despite the fact that fellow nominee Adam Hills was on two much more widely watched programs on the ABC.

So what’s the alternative? Maybe the industry should place less emphasis on the Logies, and just delegate them to their proper place – a popularity contest decided by teenage readers of a magazine. If other awards were decided this way, Twilight would be winning Oscars for best movie.

Instead, it might be time to recognise the AACTA Awards (formerly the AFI Awards) as the only legitimately impartial award to the television industry in the country. Television needs to help itself in this aspect, and promote the AACTA awards for what they are.

Counterparts in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Emmy Awards and the BATFAS respectively, likewise use academy members (ie the industry) to decide who their awards go to. The public don’t come into it.

The only problem with this? Most of the AACTA award nominations for 2012 have landed at the doorstep of the ABC and SBS, and it’s proof that quantity of audience doesn’t match up with the quality of programming.

It’s hard to imagine commercial television giving AACTA awards more prestige when their content rarely make the cut. Channel Seven may win forty weeks of ratings, but without a single nomination in the AACTAs, they’re more likely to just ignore them.

There is a place for awards like Logies, but the esteem that it’s given in the Australian television industry, and its continued reliance on popularity voting, shows a surprising disregard for talent.

If TV Week wants them to be taken seriously, it needs to strip the ‘popularity awards’ out of the entire process.

Matt Smith is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University, and is upstart’s co-editor. You can follow him on Twitter: @nightlightguy.

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