How to win a Prix CIRCOM award... well, maybe

There are no easy answers on how to maximise your chances of winning an award. These few words are offered by David Lowen as President and Chair of the Judges over many years. You can also watch a webinar with Prix judges and previous winners giving insights into how to win the Prix CIRCOM. 

Neither David nor CIRCOM Regional can be held responsible if you enter and fail having followed these suggestions. That is because the criteria and sometimes categories change every year, judges change every year, tastes change every year and the competing programmes change every year. No two years are ever identical. No guidance can ensure success.


Remember this is a Prix for regions
The whole purpose of this competition is to demonstrate the strength of content creation and media delivery from and in the regions and in small states. Judges are certain to favour subject matter which comes from or promotes regional characteristics. It may be created for a national or international market but that is acceptable when it brings fine credit to a regional production created mainly by regionally-based skills. Check Award Criteria for All Categories.

Read the Rules carefully
You need to make sure your entry is valid. You would be surprised how many entrants fail to read the Rules of Entry carefully. In particular, check the requirements for each category. Also, it is pointless, as several have, to seek to enter a programme wholly or partly without subtitles. The rules on subtitling are clear and are there because it is impossible for judges to speak every language in Europe: we have to create a common language. Nor does it help to enter but say that rights issues prevent any agreement to transmission by CIRCOM members should you be a winner. Check first that rights, especially international delivery, are available as required by the Rules of Entry. Check first that rights are available as required by the Rules of Entry.

Pick your category carefully
The toughest category is probably “Documentary”. The judges probably see 20 programmes which are of superb standard. Your chances of winning in this category may be less than in other categories. Check out the possibility of entering instead in other categories, even if your programme is in documentary form. 

Read the judges’ reports
Every year, a very substantial document is produced in which the judges’ comments on each programme are set out. They give superb clues on what the judges are looking for, what impresses them and even what annoys them. Also, every year, the chair of each category makes comments about the range of programmes submitted. These also give very strong indicators of weaknesses in submitted programmes and hopes for the following year. About half the judges from last year’s judging will attend the following year, so their views could still be influential. The Jury Report is made available in printed form at the conference and also on the CIRCOM website. Past reports are available here.


Try a new category
Categories usually take a little time to be noticed by entrants, so attract fewer entries in the first year especially. Keep your eyes open for changes in categories and be among the first to enter. For instance, a few years ago we added Drama to Entertainment and Arts to Music: it has taken a while for entrants to notice. More recently, we added a Digital Multimedia category and this is worthy of consideration. This year (2024), the News Programme category is changed so that it requires a news programme delivered on 1 February 2024. It will be little use to realise this when considering entries in March if no evidence of it remains. Plan now and make sure you can enter, when others forget. There are fresh opportunities here. Spot them before others do.


Good story in a bad programme?
You can still win with a short piece of high quality hidden in a weak programme. For instance, News Report requires a maximum of 5 minutes – and it encourages direct delivery by streaming. It may not be within an excellent News Programme – but it may be an award-winning single report. And two entries are permitted in the News Report category, so there’s double the chance of winning.


Great professional skills
Don’t forget the opportunities presented by Young Onscreen Talent and Video Journalism. These skills-based categories are independent of the programme in which they occur. It is also highly encouraging for staff to know their skills are recognised by their employers. These categories have been low on entries in recent years and present a major opportunity for glory and reward.


Great moment in a boring programme?
The Most Original and Innovative category asks only for a moment of inspiration or evidence of innovation behind the camera. This does not have to be sustained throughout the programme, so the judges can be flexible and encouraging.


Trust in youth
The Young Onscreen Talent category is a great opportunity to parade talent and encourage young on-screen talent. In recent years, the entries have been fewer than hoped – so the category offers a great chance of giving you a winning chance. Take it and enter! What’s more, you can have not one but TWO entries in this category for every regional station.


Avoid travelogues
These may make popular and easy viewing in your region: they also promote your region's culture and beauty. But the judges usually demand something more challenging as a category winner. The travelogues may have beautiful scenery and the station may be very proud of its region – but this is not enough: they can look like just promotional videos for tourist authorities. Good characters may improve such programmes but the quality of storytelling is often missing.


Avoid re-fighting old battles
Like travelogues, history programmes can be a core part of regional television as a region’s history is explored in the tensions (and often atrocities) of the past. However, there are many of these programmes presented to the judges and they often fail to be distinctive. They can make interesting historical reflections and essential regional viewing - but do not often produce winners.


Add helpful background information
The judges do read the supporting information carefully. This offers a great chance to argue the case for your programme. You can explain why it is significant in your station’s history or output; or why it was so difficult to produce; or the impact it had; or even other awards it has won.


Consider how you came to choose your content
The criteria now require a station to make clear how content can be “bottom up” and not just “top down”. If you are proud of how your audience involves itself in stimulating your content and news stories, make this clear – and the judges will take note.


Show how flexible you are in reaching your audience
Judges are looking for how widely regional stations distribute content and what opportunities there are for interactivity. If one of your possible entries demonstrates this well, do enter. Again the judges will notice.


Double your chances of winning
Three categories offer TWO chances of winning rather than one for each regional station: News Report, Video Journalism and Young Onscreen Talent. These are all short-form so this limits translation and subtitling costs. There is no need now to make hard choices on what or whom to enter: Enter both!


If you have a query, ask
Once the competition is launched, no further advice can be given on how to win. But the President Mojca Recek - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - will, however, explain any rules which you do not understand.