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Big screen TV

Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 12:39 UK time, Friday, 19 May 2006

The House of Commons leader Jack Straw has criticised newsreaders for “prancing” around the studio. We think he means us, as BBC News recently launched dramatic new studios in which our presenters spend a brief part of the bulletin standing (although not walking, prancing or dancing).

screen.jpgChanges to TV News often occasion protests. When the BBC first introduced illustration of its TV bulletins with film and graphics, the Daily Mirror attacked the BBC’s “crass stupidity” for “presenting us with the creaky, stiff-jointed pages of a particularly silly scrapbook.”

Then, when newsreaders eventually appeared on camera, one critic insisted it was vital that no attempts were made by newsreaders to look friendly, as that might end unintentionally in a smirk. Audiences now seem to take newsreaders and graphics on screen in their stride.

Maybe the few viewers who have expressed concern about newsreaders standing up now might eventually come round, as previous generations did.

So why are newsreaders standing up? In the new BBC studios we have the ability to demonstrate a much wider range of graphical and visual illustration. Those marvellous big screens are best seen in “wide shot” and a presenter standing up simply fills the frame more effectively and allows us to see the spectacular images properly. Those images give viewers a window on the world and allow us to display graphics vividly that aid audience understanding.

We know some viewers are concerned about movement by presenters, so we have asked them to stand still and not move their arms too much. We will continue to listen to the concerns of those of the audience who are worried and we’ll experiment with the way we present to make it as comfortable and accessible as possible. But we do have a duty to present the visual side of TV news as effectively as possible, to attract as wide an audience as possible to the news. We are not changing to annoy people or to drive them away, so we’ll continue to weigh up how we are doing.


  • 1.
  • At 03:42 PM on 19 May 2006,
  • Jake H wrote:

The new look does take some getting used to - and I'll be keenly watching out for them "not moving their arms too much" - but I don't remember critical comments from cabinet ministers when ITV and Sky went down the same road.

  • 2.
  • At 03:54 PM on 19 May 2006,
  • Brian wrote:

It's good to hear the boss's point of view on this. And I know that the new studios are part of an effort to do things more efficiently. But I can't help thinking that the new sets just have a feeling of ITV regional bulletins about them. I don't mean to be offensive - they just seem like something from the 80s.

  • 3.
  • At 04:01 PM on 19 May 2006,
  • John Morris wrote:

A slick-enough riposte to Straw's comments, but surely getting your presenters to stand up in front of a big screen is just jumping on the bandwagon that every other major TV news broadcaster is already on? Couldn't you have tried a more original approach?

  • 4.
  • At 04:02 PM on 19 May 2006,
  • tim wrote:

All very good points ... but when will somebody stop BBC correspondents from directionless walking in their reports? By all means, take a stroll and talk to the camera when the moving around illustrates the story, when it gives us a better view of the location of an event, shows us the colour of a place.

But please please please stop walking for walking's sake. It makes reporters look like hyperactive children, unable to stand still and convey a message.

  • 5.
  • At 04:43 PM on 19 May 2006,
  • Edward H wrote:

I rather like the idea of dancing or prancing newsreaders - ahh no, celebrity pole-dancing has been dropped, hasn't it?

  • 6.
  • At 05:15 PM on 19 May 2006,
  • Chris G wrote:

I thought Straw was a "friend" of the BBC's? With friends like that...

  • 7.
  • At 05:55 PM on 19 May 2006,
  • Kay wrote:

I thought that the main gist of Jack Straw's comments was that newsreaders are *paid too much* for 'prancing around the studio' - most of the newspapers over the past few days are rather more focused on the salaries of Huw Edwards, Fiona Bruce and Natasha Kaplinsky. I'd dare to suggest that people are slightly less concerned about the change of style?

  • 8.
  • At 11:04 AM on 21 May 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

I believe "those marvellous big screens" rarely add anything positive to news presentation. If there are "spectacular images" to show, why not show them full screen, rather than on a screen-within-a-screen. Prancing is right.

  • 9.
  • At 11:50 AM on 23 May 2006,
  • Mick wrote:

I don't get to watch the news output on TV much, but it sounds like Straw has never quite recovered from the startling appearance of Angela Rippons legs on the Morcombe and Wise circa 1975. Dance on lads, and lasses!

  • 10.
  • At 10:07 AM on 24 May 2006,
  • Ollie wrote:

Did I imagine it, or did the recent "Broken News" comedy series feature a segment called "The Standing News"? Is that where the idea came from, or is it simply another case of life imitating parody?

On the subject of on-screen newsreaders: last week I saw a newsreader wearing a definite warm smile as she told us about a horrific murder. Maybe they should be heard and not seen after all.

George and Natasha/Sophie have been standing up for every special report on the Six O'Clock News for the last 5 years. What's changed is that they stand at the top now too. But I take the point about arm waving and wandering around too much - it can just be a distraction not an aide to understanding.

  • 12.
  • At 10:30 PM on 28 Jun 2006,
  • Hussein Arif wrote:

I don't mind much if the news readers are prancing around like the ITN presenters from where the idea was so obviously stolen. But your so called "big screens" are not big screens at all they're a load of tea towells stiched together. There are streaks of white light flashing through the seems Mr Horrocks. I saw something similar in Africa in the 70's. It was a torn cinema screen stitched together with staples.

As for telling your critics that the shots look great on a wide screen TV Mr Horrocks, I have one and the shots are terrible and look amateur at best. I'm not one of those who wants to keep things the same and never change but this change is awful. It is not up to the standards of the BBC.

  • 13.
  • At 06:09 PM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • Tone wrote:

.... but they all look so dreadfully ill at ease and use their body language to 'empathise' with each other. I've just had to turn it off, I can't stand it. Please give them their chairs back.

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