I wrote the piece below in 2011 for the radio show Why The Long Face. I was reminded of it this week when Terence Dackombe (@SirTerence on Twitter, an account worth following if ever there was one) raised the very same issue about the overuse of the word 'indeed' on TV news, and I thought, "I've got some old rubbish which fits the bill completely," and here it is, rather more vitriolic than I remember it though. There's also the opportunity to play a game of Spot the Presenter...
Perhaps it’s the suspicion that everyone involved in putting together this daily exercise in presenting dumbed-down news for dummies first learned their presenting skills as children, watching Blue Peter or Ask the Family, but they haven’t matured, moved on, or indeed improved any in the intervening years, and come across like anxious teens practising their news-quacking schtick in front of the bedroom mirror.
Or maybe it’s the way in which the non-speaking half of the presenting duo adopts a facial expression which they obviously deem as being appropriate for the current story. For example, while their colleague introduces an item about, say, air-traffic control being a stressful occupation in which the practitioners hold the lives of thousands in their hands, the one whose turn it is to play mute will aim a wide-eyed slow nod or two at the viewer, as if to say, “It’s true children, it’s true”.
Yes, welcome to BBC Breakfast News. Where the presenters are so uncomfortable in front of the camera that one questions their career choice and fears for their health, as they fidget and fret their way through the programme. Or they’re so damned-smirking-and-slippery-pleased-with-themselves that an act of self-love on the breakfast sofa is surely edging ever closer.
There was a piece a while back in which they were staging a barbecue in spurious support and weary linkage to a business story. Every time the event was mentioned during the painful build-up the male presenter would shout, rather desperately, “Get some beer in for me”. Now, I don’t know what it’s like around Broadcasting House, but the only people I see drinking alcohol at 7AM are generally squatting in shop doorways and shouting at me for not having any spare change. A word of advice for the presenter: Please don’t try to connect with the ‘ordinary bloke’ by acting like the BBC’s woefully wide-of-the-mark idea of one.
I’m sure they’re all wired directly into the autocue, and I wait eagerly for the day when someone tears off a face-mask to reveal the chips and cables gathered beneath. With their stilted banter and default settings of thanking each other very much indeed and wishing each other and us a very good morning every 10 minutes or so, and a very good morning to you, these are Straight-Outta-Stepford puppets and the idea of spending any length of time with these shiny, vacuous, gelled-up robots is enough to make the idea of booze in the early morning a dangerously attractive one.
I’ve tried Sky, but with their heavy emphasis on celebs, sex, football and sensationalism, they always seem to be teetering on the edge of re-branding themselves as the TV version of The Sun, at any minute about to hand over to topless presenters. I expect Eamonn Holmes to be declared exempt from the new dress code.
So, first thing in the morning, I’ll generally stick to the radio, but CNN’s OK. I like the way it looks like they’re sitting in a bunker somewhere under the Nevada desert, and it’s slick, professional and it does a decent job of reporting relatively gimmick-free news to grown-ups. The sports coverage though, in trying to be all things to all people, is rubbish.
There was a time in many countries when CNN was the only English language station on hotel TVs and, for that reason at least, I still like it. Because when I watch it there’s always a part of me that feels like I’m on holiday.