This announcing business 

17 June 2015 tbs.pm/6610

This interview appeared in TV Mirror magazine for 13 February 1954. Noëlle Middleton was primarily an actor, and returned to acting once she left the announcing roster at the BBC. This interview is, by the nature of the time it was made, dripping with sexism. Such is the past. – Russ J Graham, Editor in chief

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This Announcing Business

The facial expression must be right, the dress well-chosen. In fact, there’s more in the job than meets the eye, says NOËLLE MIDDLETON

by MICHAEL ACKWORTH

NOËLLE MIDDLETON sat in the new announcers’ suite at Lime Grove and waited for the cue to make her next announcement.

Her face has become familiar on the screens as she has been brought in more and more as the “relief announcer,” to fill the gaps when Sylvia Peters and Mary Malcolm are off duty, or away on holiday.

When she had made her announcement, I asked Noëlle what she felt about this announcing business. “It’s a job, with its own drill, just like any other,” she said.
By which she meant that it is not simply a matter of looking nice before the camera and speaking clearly.

“The BBC has got it all worked out, into a kind of technique for announcers. The Presentation Department, which controls the announcers, looks after every detail,” Noëlle went on.

The right time to smile

“The basic wording of our announcements is drawn up well in advance. Before doing this, the Presentation Department considers the evening programmes as a whole, noting the balance of items offered.

“This balance has to be reflected in the way in which we announce the different programmes.

“Changing the viewing mood from, say, a serious programme to a light show following it has to be provided for. This is not merely a matter of the wording; it might irritate the viewer considerably if, after a serious programme, we popped up with a wide grin! But if we are to link from that programme to a variety show, we need to brighten our facial expression, as well as our voice.

“This calls for a kind of sympathetic voice and facial control, which I suppose only comes by practice. The danger all the time is that you are going to look as though you are turning on a mood artificially.

“The question of our dress also has to be considered in relation to the type of programme we have to announce. In the main a not too elaborate evening gown is suitable most evenings.

Not a fashion show

“But there are rather solemn occasions when an off-the-shoulder creation and jewellery might not be in keeping. Something quieter is called for. On the other hand, at times of national celebration or holiday, when an evenings television has a gala-like atmosphere, we may deck ourselves out more gaily than usual.

“I am often asked by women viewers why we are so rarely shown on the screen full-length, so that our dresses can be seen in full.

“The main reason for this is in the very nature of the announcer’s job. She is there to link the programmes together as smoothly and as simply as possible. I’m afraid she is not there to display herself or her dress!

“Moreover, the BBC soon found out that when an announcer is shown full-length, the viewers’ eyes are so occupied taking her in that what she says may not be properly heard!

“In fact, when we do get the luxury of a ‘long-shot’, the Presentation Department quite deliberately gives us a ‘throw-away line’ at the beginning of the announcement. This is a few seconds of padding, put in before the essential part of the statement. If viewers don’t hear it properly, it doesn’t matter, and by the time it is over, they are ready to attend to the important part of the announcement.”

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