I spoke to an interesting woman at the BBC once, where I gave a talk on the challenge of digital media to traditional TV. My talk was received like a turd left behind by a burglar, as they then saw the internet and YouTube as an irrelevant gadfly. But that’s another story. At that event I met this woman, from Northern Ireland, who trained fledgling newsreaders and presenters. She told me she had informally called her course ‘The Egos Have Landed’ as she had repeatedly seen an odd phenomenon, young, and not so young journalists and others, catapulted into fame, thinking they were something more than autocue puppets. Their exposure turned them into monstrous narcissists who then started having opinions they thought mattered, all because they read from a teleprompter or chatted to each other on a studio sofa.
Thursday, July 13, 2023
Huw did we ever get to this?
Saville was the King of such monsters, a prolific paedophile lauded, and worse, protected by BBC managers. Everyone knew, everyone laughed it off. Roll the credits on decades of paedophiles from Rolf Harris to Stuart Hall and a string of Radio 1 DJs. They’re an odd bunch. Kristian Digby, host of BBC1's To Buy Or Not To Buy, accidentally suffocated while attempting auto-erotic asphyxiation. We love a jolly frontman, as long as we don’t hear about his not so jolly backroom behaviour. Schofield and Edwards are just the latest in a long line of friendly faces that mask disturbing behaviour. I’m little concerned with their behaviour, as the witch hunts are so unedifying.
The deeper malaise is old media trying hard to avoid extinction. They need more front, as that’s the only thing they have left. Witness the recent disastrous interview by the BBC with Andrew Tate or Cathy Newman being demolished by Jordan Peterson. Whatever your views on these two odd chaps, they themselves have a lot of ‘front’, they’re smart, articulate and part of the counter-culture that has challenged TV. They ran rings around their stumbling, formulaic, ex-journalist interrogators.
The problem is too much focus on the ‘presentation’ layer. Presenters are really just juiced up human PowerPoints. I see this in tech all the time, its obsession with UX, then along comes Google – just type into a box, or ChatGPT, the same. TV has to put horrifically expensive lipstick on pigs because we want the truth watered down and mouthed out to us by what is known in the trade as ‘talking heads’. Loose Women, Quiz Shows and Reality TV are packed with these D-list ‘presenters’. They never die, just reappear as banal commentators on endless third rate entertainment programmes, the graveyards for clowns.
I have no idea why we think that news ’readers’ are worth listening to, outside of being working journalists. They’re the teleprompt and interview folk, and usually not very good at the latter, as their skills are with the written not spoken word. I was once introduced by Jackie Bird, a famous TV presenter in Scotland, as ‘Douglas’, even though I could see the word on the autocue was ‘Donald’. She was basically a bad parrot.
The problem is that they now get paid huge sums to ‘present’ homilies, seem like wholesome figures, often castigating others for their moral turpitude. We expect them to be our moral guardians, clean, pure, sensible and decent, when in truth they’re worse than most, as they often turn into overpaid narcissists. Will we miss Huw or will we manage without paying him £410,000 a year to read an autocue and behave like an old letch hunting down young ‘talent’?
I feel sorry for old Huw. He seems so ordinary, unremarkable and absent of charisma. Just a drone voice over royal events and a dull, earnest newsreaderI can't think of a single interesting sentence he ever uttered. He does stand out as someone without any obvious talent or presence.
TV is in trouble, as it is being crushed by the timeshifted streamers, social media and a dozen other alternatives. This is merely a sign of the old v new.