2015 Radio - Gold


Rami Tzabar and Angela Saini of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) won for radio reporting that explored how animal models of vocal communication may be useful in understanding how human language might have evolved. "Just like the birdsongs they report on, the BBC team produced a program that is both a delight to the ears and elegantly structured," said Seth Borenstein, a science reporter for the Associated Press, who helped judge the competition.

Vocal learning — the ability to learn and imitate sounds — is a trait humans share with only a few other species, most notably, songbirds. Charles Darwin noticed this similarity as far back as 1871 and researchers recently have been finding many similarities in the way humans and songbirds perceive and process speech and song. Borenstein called the report "a fascinating peek into language, biology, and maybe ourselves." Tina Hesman Saey of Science News called it "one grammar lesson you won't want to miss." Rami Tzabar said the program "was inspired by a chance meeting with one of the contributors, the MIT linguist Shigeru Miyagawa, who talked about using animal behavior as a way of understanding the evolution of human language. And of course, birdsong and primate calls make wonderful radio material."