Ideal presentation 

1 January 2002

Ian Beaumont reviews the best methods of presenting television

It seems to me that everybody has their idea about what they would like to see in terms of presentation of channels. Some have their ideal eras, when they felt that TV presentation was at its best. Others have ideal channels that they felt were top at branding their service. But in this era of over 150 channels of choice, is their such a thing as an ideal way to manage a junction between one programme and another, or do different channels need different styles of presentation?

Well, first of all, lets try and work out what we would like in an ideal form of presentation. One thing I know I used to like about presentation was the announcer being on screen, either behind a desk or on a sofa. That gave the channel a human face, a friendly face, someone you could identify with the station, so no matter where you saw them, whether it was on screen, in the papers or in real life, you immediately identified them with the station. It was a more subtle form of branding than most TV channels go in for today.

Also another likeable aspect of TV presentation was the clock. The clock would appear on screen at the start of a transmission, the end of a transmission, and before the news. This meant that in the late 1960’s and the 1970’s, the clock could be on our screens as many as 7 or 8 times a day. Another form of clock that used to be seen a lot on TV was the countdown clock. No, I’m not referring to the Channel 4 game show, but the presentation device used to go into programmes that counted down from 1 minute to 0. It was mainly used to introduce schools programmes. The clocks were a big part of the channel’s branding, but these days they’re barely seen and remain out of fashion.

Another useful presentation device that is no longer used, and hasn’t been since 1988, is the pre-programme ident. These days, the only pre-programme ident I see is on an imported show from the US, where the MGM lion actually appears for a few seconds, and of course, on movies. The BBC use a pre-programme ident only on their video recordings that are commercially released, not on their output, although they do insert a BBC logo on to title sequences, suggesting the need perhaps for pre-programme idents for all production companies. This raises an interesting issue. Channels have been branding all their output with permanent on-screen logos recently, what if the production companies wanted to brand their own output in the same way, rather like the World Wrestling Federation does already? Could you imagine watching a Warner Brothers movie on Channel 5, with the Channel 5 logo in one corner, and the Warner Brothers logo in another or possibly the same corner? Hey, anything is possible in this corporate world. To avoid such issues, perhaps the re-introduction of pre-production idents would be a useful idea. Incidentally, the WWF also has a pre-programme ident of its own, as well as a permanent on-screen logo.

Some recent innovations in presentation have also been good, such as the permanent on-screen scoreboard during a cricket, rugby, football, or other sporting match, examples of changes in presentation style that are actually designed with the viewer in mind, as well as the TV companies.

Can the best elements of 2001 presentation be applied to all stations? It would be easy to do so on most, if not all, of the general entertainment channels. It would only need a small studio to do on-screen announcing, or a small corner of a larger studio. Pre-programme idents already exist for most companies already, only a small selection of companies would need to create new ones. The clock could be adapted to fit in a corner, as it used to with the old TV-am, or could be incorporated with another feature, as the early RTE 2 clock in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s used to be. It’s not hard to see general entertainment channels using all or most of these features in one way or another.

Now, lets see if we can apply these to a news channel. Well, it’s not traditional for an on-screen presenter to link directly into the news without a clock, or these days without some form of ident. So, we couldn’t use on-screen announcers. The clock has always been traditional, so a clock up to the hour would be a good presentation device. It would seem very unnecessary to include a pre-programme ident at the beginning of a bulletin, but not before feature programming of some kind.

In fact, if you were to take any set of presentation techniques and apply it across the range of channels that exist today, you’d find it impossible to apply them evenly and completely, because one or two would always seem to be out of place or not right for that particular type of channel. So, perhaps there isn’t one ideal set of presentation techniques, one style of presentation, that you could apply right across TV channels. But, maybe there are individual sets of techniques, individual styles of presentation that work for certain types of channels.

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