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A younger BBC announcer?

Steve Martin Steve Martin | 13:23 UK time, Monday, 30 October 2006

Visit London’s Aldwych on an evening and you’ll see loads of folk milling about in dinner jackets. Who are these people? Theatreland party guests or BBC World Service continuity announcers waiting to start their shifts?

World Service logoWell, the former, of course but the image of immaculately dressed ladies and gentlemen addressing the world from London is an enduring one. Indeed, it is said that BBC studios were designed so that starched cuffs couldn’t inadvertently knock important controls.

This weekend we look to the future, however, as we search for a young continuity announcer for our forthcoming “Generation Next” week. It’s all about seeing the world through the eyes of the planet’s under-18s.

We invited UK schools who had recently run licensed radio stations to nominate students and this Saturday a bunch of them will come to Bush House for coaching from some of our professional broadcasters. They’ll also record audition material for their bid to be a finalist. More than forty million listeners could hear their work so it’s a pretty big deal for them.

But we have a dilemma - some of the entrants we’ve heard demonstrate maturity, authority and a vocal resonance well beyond their years. They will sit very well on air and bring youthful insight to our journalism. But if they don’t actually sound young and recognisably different to our listeners, what’s the point of all this you might argue.

Well, we’re inviting World Service listeners to influence the judges’ decision by commenting on their favourites by text and email. I’ll let you know when it’s all up on the website in case you want to join in… and of course I’ll let you know if any of the hopefuls turn up in black tie.


  • 1.
  • At 08:34 PM on 30 Oct 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

Its a good idea in principle but as you say you will probably end up with somthing that isn't exactly a broad 'young people' view.

I remember from my youth seeing programs for 'young people' with young presenters but theres no way the remotely represented issues myself and my friends were encounting.

  • 2.
  • At 12:59 PM on 31 Oct 2006,
  • H Bloomfield wrote:

Sounds patronising to me, to assume that young people can only understand and engage with things spoken to them by other young people. It's the same mentality that says that any CBBC or CBeebies presenter has to be about 22, jump about a lot and appear really excited all the time.

And why are young people being singled out for treatment as a homogenous group (which they're not, of course)? Perhaps the BBC would like to identify those presenters in their late 30's so I can be careful not to pay attention to any others?

  • 3.
  • At 08:44 AM on 01 Nov 2006,
  • C S Waller wrote:

I can see how this is a very American point of view. I have lived here all my life. I think you should have a younger point of view on a news broadcast, as long as they are informed, educated and have a mature disposition in that it would help when trying to get their opinions and thoughts understood. I don't mean to say that Americans are Immature but that Europeans are more so. So, bring it on.

  • 4.
  • At 03:26 PM on 01 Nov 2006,
  • Hannah wrote:

I happen to be under 18, and I strongly suspect that I fit into the category of young people that speaks well, displays vocal maturity etc. To be perfectly honest, if I heard somebody announcing the news who could not speak English properly, I would change channels, and I am well-acquainted with the way that many young people speak. How much more so, then, would an older person who has not built up a 'tolerance' to slang? If you are going to employ a younger person, please ensure that it is somebody who holds genuine opinions and can present those opinions in a mature and sophisticated manner.

  • 5.
  • At 09:42 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

This idea has not been thought through. How is it not inescapably ageist, just for starters? Are you not stuck in that old mindset that leads to twenty-somethings with very young voices playing adolescents on soap operas like O.C.? Why draw the line as high as 18 if you want them to sound immature? Almost all are physically mature as far as the voice is concerned long before that age, and most are mentally mature too. Perhaps you need to be looking for those under 10 to be sure of the right sound?

I know it would be impossibly radical, but how would it be if the BBC opened itself to competent talent of any age (as well as any ethnicity and any gender)? Twelve, eighteen, seventy, ninety, as long as they had something to present or report (and not just subjects sterotypically "appropriate" for their age) and the knack of reporting it?

  • 6.
  • At 03:14 PM on 11 Nov 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

I very much aggree with all the above comments! It doesnt matter how they sound! Its what they have to say that matters! You will find that in fact the majorty of young people dont sound like little kids!

Go for the person with the best voice and the person who is the best!

For me, after visiting the Generaton Next page.... listening to the five finalists.

I would have to say.... DARRYL is the man for me!

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