Hed Arzi-signed singers Harel Skat and Keren Peles were the big winners at the third annual Israel Music Awards (AMI) ceremony, held March 8 at Tel Aviv's Club 24.

Skat won for song of the year with Keren Peles' "And You." In an innovative move, the category was decided on the night by viewers, who voted via SMS.

All nominees for song of the year performed during the show; Hadag Nahash performed "Here I Come," Din Din Aviv played "I Know You From Once Upon A Time"; Idan Yaniv and Lior Datoker's sang "I Think Of You"; and The Giraffe presented "Roof".

Skat also took out best singer, while Peles collected the best newcomer award.

Hed Arzi act Synergia picked up the best group gong.

Other awards went to Helicon Music's Ninette Taib, for best female singer; Hed Arzi's Hadag Nahash, whose "With Help of the Jam" was named best album; and Ro'i Verner and Tamir Wexler, whose video for Helicon artist Aviv Geffen's "With The Time" was named best clip.

Both Skat and Taib are alumni of terrestrial Channel 2 reality TV show "Born To Sing."

The category of best director was chosen by Music 24 management alone; Assaf Bilit was the recipient, for his body of work throughout the year.

The show was produced and broadcast live from by Herzliya, Israel-based Music 24, the country's sole domestic music channel. Music 24 is available to all cable and satellite TV viewers, and is dedicated exclusively to Israeli music.

Six of the awards in the slimmed-down, eight-category format were chosen by Music 24 viewers. Nominations were cast via the Internet and a media panel, with votes weighted 90%/10%, respectively. In previous years, the judging panel decided the winners.

"We chose this weighting to give recognition to professionalism while showing consideration to the viewers," commented Music 24 in a statement.

Ori Braun, head of new media at Helicon Records, welcomed the decision to allow viewers to decide exclusively the song of the year award.

He said, "Personally, I think it's always better to get the opinion of the viewers and the target audience without media and 'negotiators' in the middle. It gives a better picture of the end user."

Braun adds, "Songs that are the most popular with viewers are not necessarily the ones that get the most radio or TV play where editors may impose their likes and dislikes."

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