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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
News from a standing start
By Helen Wade
Producer, NewsWatch

In the BBC's satirical programme Broken News there is a sketch called Walking News.

Natasha Kaplinsky and George Alagiah
Sometimes they stand, sometimes they sit...
In it the female presenter reads the Autocue while simultaneously walking the length and breadth of the television studio, up and down the steps of a small platform and even conducting an interview with a correspondent on location while continuing to pace up and down the studio floor.

It is hilarious to watch, largely because - despite the obvious exaggeration by the actors - it is so close to the bone.

Today's news presenters and reporters are more than likely to be seen standing up or perching on desks and talking while bringing you the news.

The traditional "news desk" on the set hasn't disappeared altogether but presenters are no longer confined to sitting behind it. But these new trends aren't to everyone's taste, and viewers have been very vocal since the main BBC One bulletins revamped their studio earlier this year.

'Robotic hand movements'

David Riddell wrote: "News presenters stand, sometimes walk about, then sit down, then stand up. Why? How does this improve news coverage? It's not that long ago that the likes of Peter Sissons and Michael Buerk were just sitting behind a desk and giving us the news. What's wrong with that?"

Richard Baker
Some viewers favour a return to the old days
Chris Cymik commented: "Why does it take two presenters to read the news - can't we make do with one? And then they move around the studio. Why?"

And David Drew said: "I now feel uncomfortable watching your presenters on the Six O'Clock News. They stand awkwardly side by side, clutch their scripts, make robotic hand movements and do not look at ease. Please let them sit comfortably and talk to us."

Another aspect that irritates some viewers is how reporters and news presenters talk to each other.

"When the reporter is introduced by name and begins his report he is addressing me - the viewer," wrote Bill Aitkenhead.

"To have him/her begin with statements like: 'Well, George...' or 'Well, Huw...' gives the impression that the two of them are having a conversation."

'Cut the gimmicks'

David Riddell agreed that this could make viewers feel excluded. "Don't talk to each other, talk to me," he urged. "Please BBC, keep it simple - give us the news and cut out the gimmicks."

So is the Broken News interpretation more fact than fiction? One thing BBC managers are quick to point out is that their presenters don't walk while talking, at least not on the main bulletins.

Amanda Farnsworth
We do it because we think it adds to our explanation
Amanda Farnsworth
Editor, Daytime News
"I think it's really funny," said the editor of daytime news, Amanda Farnsworth. "What satire does really well is take a little something and exaggerate it to a great degree and they've done that very successfully."

But she denied any suggestions that the news was realying on gimmicks. "We don't do it for a laugh or just to make things different. We do it because we think it adds to our explanation.

"The reason why people stand up is because we have these amazing big screens now that we can put a lot of pictorial or factual information on for the viewer and quite often that's why we're standing up.

"I'm always open to ideas, but we have them both standing because generally the presenters are seen together.

'More modern'

"When we had the old set on the Six O'Clock News we quite often used to start with George sitting down and Sophie - who used to do the Six O'Clock News in those days - standing up because we only had a very small screen that we used on the side.

"Clearly for some viewers it's distracting, but we do have a large amount of people going the other way saying: 'We really like it, we find it more modern.'

"Let's be honest, when newsreading started everybody had to wear evening dress and sit behind a very, austere desk in a very austere studio. My mother sometimes says perhaps we should go back to that time, so there is a range of views on these things."

Practical reason

On the questions of whether presenters and reporters are too matey with their constant namechecks, Amanda Farnsworth said there were two reasons for it.

"One's a practical one," she explained. "When there's a correspondent over at a big screen probably giving a lot of factual information, how does the presenter know when they've finished? So giving a namecheck is one way of letting the presenter or the correspondent know when something is over.

"The other thing is that actually it's quite polite!"


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