BBC Radio 4

    Feedback: Operation Dropout

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    Sometimes, as a presenter or a continuity announcer, you can feel like an actor, simply reading the words in front of you, not all of which you will have written yourself. Life becomes a bit dull, you want something to go wrong, a situation to arise in which you and you alone stand between triumph and disaster. Of course in these daydreams you save the day and leave the studio to the acclaim of your colleagues, who look at you in a new light, and with the admiration of listeners.

    That is the fantasy.

    In reality presenters react in very different ways. Some TV hosts , tied to their autocues, just freeze. You can see the eyes go cold, the voice slow to a halt, witness the desperate rustling of papers and then the nervous smile as they wait to be rescued, cheeks flushed.

    Others come alive, rejuvenated by disaster, in charge, momentarily, of "their" programmes.

    In radio at least the blushes go unseen, but the voice tells all.

    I remember in my early days on the Sunday programme losing my way in the script, having to tell the audience that I had done so, and waiting for an understandably irate producer to rush into the studio and sort me out.

    On other occasions, when lines to contributors went down, I had to move on to another item as elegantly as possible, or extend an interview until the production team had sorted out the problem.

    This of course is relatively easy to do with in a multi item magazine programme. In those days at least breakdowns seemed to be a rare event. Not now, in the view of listeners involved in Feedback's "Operation Dropout".

    A particularly long breakdown took place on last week's Any Questions from Stratford Upon Avon.

    For over six minutes the Radio 4 continuity announcer, Steve Urquhart, had to fill, not knowing for most of the time if the line would ever be re-established. I talked to him about how he tried to maintain grace under pressure. Here's our conversation, and details of a few more recent drop-outs...

    Do let us know if you hear any links go down. The problems are clearly not going away.

    Roger Bolton

    Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4.

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