Please read the news a little slower 

5 July 2021

(I’m Practising My Shorthand)



French television announcers are being pursued by amorous women viewers, says a recent report from Paris. But in Britain things are a little different, as Albert Jacobs finds in talking to television’s new heart-throbs.


Liverpool Echo masthead

From the Liverpool Echo for 4 April 1963

French television announcers are being pursued by women viewers.

Is this happening in Britain, too? Or is the relationship between female television viewers, male announcers and newscasters an affair of esteem, instead of an affaire de coeur?

My round-up of the experiences of these smooth types who stare blandly from Britain’s small screens revealed some intriguing points about television’s performer-audience rapport.

Norman Tozer

Norman Tozer

“You ought to see some of the letters I get!” exclaimed Norman Tozer, and ATV announcer, when I spoke to him. But he did not show me any!

“I am in the 27-28 age group,” said Tozer, “and I’ve been told that I am – or my image is – of a fairly suave but young type. And I seem to attract the younger type of girl.

“I get about a dozen fan letters a week, almost exclusively from women. At Christmas time I get some letters from families saying how they enjoy my work.

“Once, I had a series of telephone calls from a girl who had taken a bet that she could arrange to meet me. I did not go out of my way to help her. I felt it was up to her to come round and meet me, if she wanted to collect her wager!

“Most of the people who write to me seem to be pretty decent and sincere. In a way, it makes me humble.”

Pretty innocuous stuff, so far. But when next I quizzed Andrew Gardner, one of commercial television’s newscasters, I thought at first that I was on to something.


“Yes, I’ve got one very amorous fan,” said Gardner, slowly. Then, deadpan: “She’s six-years-old, and often writes to me in rather endearing terms!”

Gardner reckons that he, too, receives about a dozen letters a week, again mostly from teenage girls.

“Ninety per cent. of them want my autographed photograph, which we send to them,” he said. “I get a lot of letters from Ireland. Why, I don’t know.


Andrew Gardner

Andrew Gardner


“I also seem to get quite a few letters from old people. They are charming letters, chatty, full of the little everyday things they would tell their families. They live alone, I suppose.

“Since I’ve been on television I have received only two letters from women asking me to meet them.

“No one pursues me in the street, either. They do recognise me in trains and restaurants, but they do not make a nuisance of themselves.”

“Often someone will automatically say ‘hello’ to me, before realising who I am. People come to regard you as a next-door neighbour.”

Well, I thought, they may be running after the television announcers up and down the Paris boulevards, but in Britain the television lad with good diction is regarded as… a good friend… “a next-door neighbour”… or someone to ask for a piece of his hair.


John Benson in 1966



Robert Dougall

Robert Dougall

This request was once made to John Benson, an ABC TV announcer and newscaster. “And I sent it to them,” he told me.

“The girls might hunt you in groups for your autograph,” said Benson, “but they would not come up to you singly.

“And they rarely ask you to meet them somewhere. I’ve had only one or two such requests.”

Robert Dougall, one of the B.B.C.’s team of television newsreaders, looked astonished when I asked him if he had ever been pursued by women viewers.

“No,” he said, frostily. But was smiling when he added: “I should resign if they did!”

Dougall gets about 20 letters a week – more from Scotland than any other area, “because of my Scottish name, I suppose.” Some writers ask him if he is related to them, as they have the same name.

He has had some odd letters. “One typist wanted me to read the news slower, as it would help her with her shorthand practice.

“An old woman thinks we can see her when we are reading the news. She asked whether I minded her sitting very close to the set. ‘Does it put you off?’ she asked.”

People invariably say something to Dougall when they see him in public. “I am most pleased when they smile and say ‘Good Morning’ or a similar greeting and leave it at that,” he said.

“Sometimes they recognise you as someone they know, but can’t quite remember who you are. They keep looking at you and smiling.”


The following section is commentary from Transdiffusion's expert writers

Russ J Graham writes: A much more innocent age is depicted in this article than the one we live in now.

Of course, this piece is just for fun and just interviewing male announcers and newsreaders. The experience of female television personalities had a much sharper edge, with the risk of stalking (not then recognised as a crime) and letters containing pornographic descriptions of what the male writer would like to do with/to/on the recipient.

That said, there is a sadder side to what is intended as a light piece on the women’s page of the Liverpool Echo. Andrew Gardner hints at it, receiving letters from older people living alone. They’re lonely, and Gardner is a daily presence in their living room, so of course they come to think of him as their friend. The woman writing to Robert Dougall asking if she’s too close to the screen and is putting him off is likely in the same boat: she feels a personal connection to him, in a world where she has few other personal connections.

That, of course, has been the joy of broadcasting since its inception in the 1920s. People alone, who then and now can go weeks without a conversation with somebody, have a voice in the room with them. That voice becomes a friend. This was recognised very early on for a traditionally marginalised and lonely part of society: hot on the heels of the founding of the BBC came the British Wireless for the Blind Fund, still extant today, seeking to ensure that everybody with sight problems was equipped with a companion in the form of a radio.

Even with the thousands of TV channels and radio stations available today, people tend to gravitate towards the more personal of the output – not just the newsreader, but the Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 and warm shows like Sewing Bee and The Repair Shop – programmes where somebody on their own can see friendly faces who make them feel less alone, if only for 15 minutes or an hour.

See the Campaign to End Loneliness for further resources.

You Say

1 response to this article

Harald Stelsen 10 July 2021 at 9:49 pm

How noticeable that social customs and news journal reporting have changed over time!

avril 1963
French television announcers are being pursued by women viewers.

58 or so years later …

mars 2021
Ten women accuse veteran French TV TF1 news anchorman
Patrick Poivre d’Arvor (PPDA) of rape or sexual assault.

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