Announcers’ Suite 

5 December 2022


by Clive Rawes
Presentation Editor, BBC Television


Cover of TV Mirror

From TV Mirror for 10 October 1953

WHILE you know that every live TV programme is nursed by its own producer, have you ever wondered who links all the programmes together? Who in effect “produces” each transmission?

This is the job of the Presentation Assistant. He also looks after the announcer, the interludes, the tuning captions, the weather charts, the feature films, over-runs, under-runs, breakdowns and hitches. He is the man who must decide whether you see a little more of some outdoor event or pass on to the children’s programme sharp on schedule.

In the old days at Alexandra Palace the presentation man and his engineering colleague had a worrying time making the decisions which have to be taken if the flow of programmes is not to become jerky.

Lime Grove is beginning to put an end to such worries. The announcers and the presentation staff now work in the new Presentation Suite of which the announcers’ studio is an important part. The studio, its control room and the master control room are adjacent. The dividing walls have large sound-proof glass windows so that everybody is in close visual communication. When they have finished in the studio the announcers return to the control room to watch the programme. They are instantly available. They can tell at a moment’s notice what is happening if there is a breakdown, an under-run or some other interruption to the “flow.” The new announcers’ suite also enables us to be in contact with any of the Lime Grove studios at the touch of a key. Presentation staff can “tune in” to producers giving instructions to their own studios. This helps tremendously at the start and finish of programmes, especially when there are last minute changes of plan.


A woman sits in front of a draped curtain with lights, microphone and camera pointing at her

In their new studio the announcers can be seen full length, although close-ups will still be used. And on the TV set (left of picture) they can see how they are looking!


Perhaps I have given the impression that all we have done by building the presentation suite is to give ourselves better facilities and conditions for our job.

You will ask, “What does this mean to me, the viewer? How does it affect what I see on the screen?”

First I must warn you not to expect to see a lot of spectacular tricks. You will not see our announcers making a long entrance down a flight of stairs; nor shall we try to superimpose their features on a bowl of tropical orchids. (I have had letters seriously recommending both.)

Tuning signal with clock

You will notice, I hope, that continuity is more efficient. Your tuning caption will always have a clock in the centre. Viewers have long been asking for this.

There will also be a revolution in the method of presenting the weather forecasts. You’ll be hearing about this later.

Some women viewers have been asking whether there will be full length shots of the women announcers. Technically this is possible. But Sylvia and Mary have a first duty — to announce. I do not intend to turn them into television clothes pegs.

However, we can show you more of their dresses by tracking in from a long shot, and we will do this from time to time.

Now that the announcers have a television home of their own I am getting a flood of letters from people who want to try their hand at the job. But I am no longer holding regular auditions. During the past two years I have talked to over 1,000 candidates. More than 500 of these have had camera tests. Seven, and seven only, were successful.

If you want any further proof of how difficult the job is you have only to listen to the daily weather forecast. Shorthand writers should take it down one evening and try reading it back smoothly and word-perfect first time.

The forecast is always full of pitfalls for an unwary announcer. It can be a nightmare after a tiring day at the studios.


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