"1) Are we - the licence fee payers, and therefore the owners of the BBC, and therefore the owners and sponsors of the Radio 2 Folk Awards - happy with that list? Are we comfortable that these people actually know about what's going on, and are not just feeding eachother in some self-contained London-based media ecosystem? Are we at ease with the fact that a good many of those people, (if they are indeed on the panel), can be reasonably expected to vote for artists that they represent, and via whom they may benefit financially from that nomination?"
I feel happy with it, but mainly because there isn't an alternative. Are you sure that anyone not on the list knows better "whats going on"? I think the same artists names come up over and over again (in the case of the Carthys, Martin Simpson, John and Jon etc) because they DO represent the cream of performance of traditional music in this country. Its not a closed shop - witness Jim Moray, Julie Fowlis etc doing well at the awards with their first albums. However, it is (quite rightly IMO) full-time pro musicians who get the the nominations - mainly because they are out working hard to be visible and promote their music. In a voting process, of course the ubiquitous names do well. Its because they've worked hard to be at the forefront of peoples minds.
Also, its London-centric because in order to work for the mainstream media you need to be in London. And by "mainstream media" I don't mean the people trotting out the same old stereotypes, I mean people like Colin Irwin and Colin Randall who are solely responsible for what little good quality coverage we get in the 'outside world'. These are THE GOOD GUYS, honestly.
Apologies if it sounds like I'm defending Smooth Ops. I disagree with their decision to include a newly written song in the trad song category. But I do think that there isn't a better practical way of running the awards.
As if you can't tell - I have a vested interest here too (no, I didn't get my own vote, and no artist I'm connected with is on the shortlist this year for the first time in five years). I work hard because I love traditional music and I want more people who might not otherwise get to hear it to get hooked. To those who suggest that the BBC is 'dumbing down' by promoting only 'easy' artists - think of it as a gateway to the harder stuff. I'm glad that the awards are as they are because through Kate Rusby people might discover Harry Cox or through Seth Lakeman the Baring-Gould collection.
A flawed folk awards is better than none and I don't think biting the hand that feeds (writing to the director general or using the official BBC complaints procedure) is a good idea...