Awards: And the Winner of the Best Awards Ceremony Is. ; L Already This Week We've Had the Baftas, the Grammys, the Nibbies and the Cesars - and Now There Are Even Awards for the Best Awards
Ian Burrell Media and Culture Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
WITHOUT A hint of irony, a glittering black-tie event is being planned for a top London venue later this year at which the people who organise awards ceremonies will award each other awards.
The "Awards Awards" - already being called the "Awards Industry Oscars" - will include categories for "Best Use of a Venue", "Best Use of Staging" and "Best Catering".
It is in many ways an inevitable development in the frenzy of prize-giving that was spawned by the entertainment business and has grown to include 29,000 ceremonies that celebrate the achievements of everyone from fish fryers to parking attendants.
We are at the height of the awards "season", with events taking place almost on a daily basis. Sunday night's Baftas ceremony in Leicester Square clashed with the French film industry's Cesars and the American music industry's Grammys (three days after London's Brits). The magazine Variety calculates that in the first three months of the year alone the entertainment industry holds 95 awards ceremonies around the world, handing out more than 1,280 gongs and trophies.
Steven Gaydos, executive editor of Variety, said the number of awards ceremonies had "proliferated like an amoeba". He said the film industry never missed "any chance to stand on a stage and weep and say `thank you'."
Since the beginning of last year, Nicole Kidman has tracked back and forth across the Atlantic to at least 12 awards ceremonies, from triumphing at the Golden Globes and the Baftas to being accused of acting like a prima donna at the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California.
Last night, publishing executives dressed up for the "Nibbies", the British Book Awards, one of more than 170 similar ceremonies held every year in that industry alone. As well as the famous prizes such as the Whitbread and the Booker, there are many more obscure honours such as the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Awards and the Sainsbury's Baby Book Award for children under the age of one.
Within each sector, rival awards ceremonies compete to be known as the industry's "Oscars". For this small minority of blue riband events, the potential for attracting celebrity attendees and big- name sponsors is immense.
Sunday's Baftas were sponsored by Orange for the sixth time. Bafta's chief executive, Amanda Berry, made a personal appeal to journalists to "credit the event with its full title, the Orange British Academy Film Awards, when covering it".
In ploughing in financial backing, Orange was well aware that front page newspaper photographs - such as those that appeared yesterday of Kidman in front of its company logo - were as good publicity as its money could buy.
Marketing strategists estimate that any editorial coverage on television or in newspapers is worth three times as much as a corporate advertising message because the public regards it as more of an independent endorsement. So an event like the Baftas, which can guarantee an A-list celebrity audience and a wealth of exposure on screen and in print, still has sponsors falling over themselves to join the action.
Absolut sponsored the after-show party vodka, Audi provided the cars for VIP guests, Lancome supplied the make-up artists, Tesco sent the after- dinner coffee, and on and on.
The biggest ceremonies also generate millions of pounds of business for the nominees and winners.
Mr Freeman said that the endorsement of an award might persuade people to go to see a film or buy a book. "A Booker or a Whitbread prize guarantees that you will be on the best-seller list for at least a few weeks," he said.
With so much money at stake, it is little surprise that the awards are dogged by rumour that the excited tearing of envelopes is merely a ruse to disguise a rigged contest.
Many of the minor ceremonies, insiders say, amount to little more than Buggins' turn, with each of a small clique of potential winners waiting year-by-year for their turn in the spotlight. …