Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TV Presenting - the job anybody can do and nobody can do

I haven't been watching Channel 4's coverage of the world athletics championship but nonetheless the news of the tribulations of lead presenter Ortis Deeley reached me via various waspish comments in the newspapers. You can get an idea of how at sea he was in this item in the Guardian. Now he's been demoted mid-games.

I tend to believe that in 99% of situations where the presenter has egg on his face it's not his fault. He's just the poor bloke out front trying to put a brave face on it while unseen others grapple with the logistics. Having said that it wouldn't have been asking too much of him to expect him to learn the names of the commentators he was handing over to so that he didn't get them wrong twice.

But the person who should be in the dock here is not Deeley, who is probably only guilty of a little too much ambition and not quite enough homework. The guilty party is whichever, presumably highly-paid, person at Channel 4 decided: a) that anchoring a major live sports presentation like this could be done by a novice rather than the most battle-hardened professional on your books; b) that the novice should be this graduate of Saturday morning television.

Only in television is the person who fronts the business likely to have been chosen by somebody who has never personally fronted the business, doesn't know what's involved in fronting the business and intends to keep their head firmly below the parapet when their choice of person to front the business is proved to have been so wrong.

P.S. I was talking to a senior person in a large company recently and congratulating her on the quality of her young intern, who seemed to be the last word in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed efficiency. She rolled her eyes and said "She doesn't read a book. No hinterland."

John Rawling is a pretty well-known commentator and I'd like to feel that anyone who ended up anchoring a sports show might have heard of him. If, that is, they had a hinterland.


  1. I was listening when Claire Balding made her first broadcast on Five Live. She wasn't very good, either. She kept at it and is now a first rate broadcaster, in my opinion. And I always feel a connection with her because she kept at it. Fingers crossed, Ortis will do the same, find a niche, learn his chops and blossom into a fine presenter, provided the powers that be keep a little faith in him.

  2. I too remember Balding first dipping her toe in the shark infested waters of national radio. She and Ian Payne used to 'do' the sport on Danny Baker's Morning Edition on the old Radio 5. She depped for Cornelius Lycett if memory serves. She always seems unflappable and doesn't take herself too seriously - never a bad thing when you want to get on; it's usually those that try too hard who end up falling flat on their arse.