Recently, RAI, Italy’s state broadcaster, appointed Paolo Morawski as Secretary General of Prix Italia, the world oldest radio TV (and now web) festival.

VideoAge caught up with him from his Romebase to talk about his plans for prestigious international competition, the 66th edition of which will take place this year from September 20-25 in Turin, Italy.

VAI: We realize that you’ve been appointed just recently, but perhaps you have an idea of which way you’d like Prix Italia to go? Are there any preliminary ideas and directions?

PM: The basic idea is that Prix Italia, should be a useful event, an innovation laboratory.

Useful for everyone: to the Prix community, made up of over 100 radio and television organizations from five continents; for RAI, which gives its solid backing to the Prix secretariat; and for the city and the region hosting the Festival each year.

Being useful in times of economic difficulties and rapid and continual changes in communications means going back to square one: quality, namely the quality of the competing radio and television programs, the quality of the Web prize which we are boosting and innovating, the quality of debates and events rotating around the competition and the professional and human quality of the delegates and guests who share Prix week with us.

Precisely because excellence is the governing principle running through Prix Italia’s history for the last 66 years, we are spurred on by the belief that past experience should be harnessed to the innovations of the digital era.

One example of this successful marriage is Prix Italia’s historical digital archive, which is one of a kind in the world. Our online pre-selection system of programs running in the competition is highly advanced. Tradition and innovation find strength in each other.

We should think of the Prix in terms of being one large, major hub in order to communicate, share, inform and be informed.

The fact that Turin will host Prix Italia has been a great boost for us; not least because Turin is a post-industrial city; an ancient capital located in a strategic region, where culture and tradition converge with communication and innovation.

VAI: What are the aspects of the Prix that you like most?

PM: I’m especially fascinated by the Prix’s two basic personalities: its international character and its creative character. The international contingent at the Prix is represented by the juries, composed of renowned communication experts, who are appointed by the Prix Italia members themselves: radio, TV and the latest arrivals from the online world.

Since 1948 our juries have constantly distinguished themselves for their mastery and expertise, working in a stimulating and rewarding atmosphere, where cultural identity and geographic diversity are expressed freely.

Each year, the juries honor the best productions, which stand out for their innovation, quality and creativity, in language and content. The high degree of creativity and actual international flair characterizing the works in competition, the debates, juries and prizewinners ensure the Prix’s atmosphere is charged with positive energy. It is highly interesting and inspiring.

Since its very onset, Prix Italia has been lending its support to diversity and exchanging views. This is yet another aspect of the Prix, which I find greatly appealing given it spawns virtuous offshoots: every workshop is a new network and networks energize workshops. This is why I am a great believer in synergies: every web needs a hand to sew the first thread.

Given that hospitality is made up of exchanges, networks, getting on together, over Prix week there are plans afoot for new and especially created locations and moments to meet — also privately — face to face.

VAI: Are there any particular territories (countries) that you’ll be focusing on in order to bring more members and more programs?

PM: Prix is deeply rooted in Europe and the Mediterranean area. The first goal is to continue getting hold of the best radio and television programs and the new multi-platform offerings of the whole Euro-Mediterranean region.

The Prix is then historically linked to North America, with the United States and Canada, as well as with Australia. Our second objective is to foster and renew ties with those highly important audiovisual production centers where English is the main language.

The Prix’s third major aim is to get two giants of communication today — Japan and South Korea — actively involved in our Festival.

Taking this well-established map as our starting point, we can chart the new frontier of Prix’s international ambitions. We have already for some time been in contact and have had fruitful ties with China, India, Brazil, South Africa as well as other African countries. Programs and the representatives of these countries have already taken part in one or other of our Festivals.

We intend to turn these contacts from sporadic to being stable.

We’re also intent on attracting to the Prix the productions and talents of South American countries, of Spanish-speaking countries (I’m thinking here especially of Argentina). But we’ll be taking a step at a time, shifting our focus, getting especially selected areas and partners (be it countries, members, programs) involved.

We’ll also be doing this by adopting an approach based on thematic, and not just geographic, issues.

Let me explain. This year, Prix Italia will undoubtedly be “looking southwards,” to the Mediterranean, because in the Mediterranean audiovisual production is on the rise and because the Mediterranean attracts us because of its “storytelling.”

In the Mediterranean, the extremely complicated web of migrations generates some really incredible stories, which the media ceaselessly tell in diverse kinds of programs (news, reports, documentaries, drama, films).

However, since we’re interested in understanding how television and radio report about the migratory phenomena, we’re also [looking at] Australia, where the scenes and tragedies of Europe-bound immigrants are similarly repeated, but in different forms, [and] on the U.S.-Mexican border.

VAI: During the past administration, the Prix was more academically inclined. Is there a chance that the Prix would return to a more pragmatic event?

PM: The next Festival is entitled: “The Innovation Laboratory.”

The idea is to let us be taken by the hand, guided by those experimenting and/or who have already made innovative programs and services of undoubted added value.

Prix Italia has already come to an agreement on this with the EBU, the European Broadcasting Union. In September, we are setting up the “Prix Italia-EBU Vision 2020 Laboratory.” Our slogan is going to be: “Innovation is Now.” The aim is for everyone to return home with two or three good ideas or “best practices” in order to find inspiration.

Also on the synergy with the universities’ front, we will be trying out new formulas this year. We have already established an excellent relationship with the University of Turin and UCLan, the British University of Central Lancashire.

For the first time, the “Special Prize of the President of the Italian Republic” will be awarded to the best communication and social awareness [commercial] spot. The assumption is that, if made with creative skill, a dynamic, rapid message can make a powerful impact – and this quality should be celebrated when the most advanced language of communication is at the service of positive messages and shared civic and moral values.

The jury of this special prize will be made up of 28 students from 28 European Union member countries, as a tribute to the Italian semester of the presidency of the European Union (in the second half of 2014).

Finally we have been discussing holding a special event dedicated to young talents who are today present on the modern digital scene in large numbers. To boost this approach, which you termed pragmatic, the first thematic “Prix Italia brainstorming” session devoted to the Web is to take place on April 4th in Italy.

The formula is holding an intense in-depth meeting of a group of experts from diverse backgrounds, who will be called on to focus on what is boiling in that huge caldron that we call the Web. This brainstorming is expected to produce new features and fresh categories in Prix Italia’s Web prize, the rules for which are set to be unveiled mid April. It will be one of the major novelties of the 2014 Festival.

VAI: Is competition is staying at the heart of the event?

PM: Yes, the competition is staying at the heart of the event.

I am also able to announce that Prix Italia is set to stage a top quality major international artistic event — A kind of mosaic of voices, sounds and music through every possible form to be offered by multimedia starting with the radio.

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