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It wouldn’t have happened in my day …

Bernadette Angell finds standards slipping at the BBC

The technical quality of BBC television programme production has been plummeting this week and you don’t have to be a telly insider to notice it.

On Thursday evening, the distinctly average The One Show on (BBC1, weekdays at 7.00pm) – a programme whose audience consists mostly of people tuning in because there’s nothing else worth watching on British television at that time of night – featuring as its main guest singer Sam Bailey, the winner of the 2013 version of ITV’s The X-Factor.

sambaileyThe last but one item on the show was a ‘live’ link between the in-studio sofa and a pub in East Anglia (I think it was) where the final of a national karaoke competition was to be staged later in the evening. The idea was that two of the finalists would demonstrate their prowess to Sam Bailey, who would then ‘mentor’ them by dispensing advice on how to give of their best in the competition.

The piece was a technical disaster from start to finish.

Firstly, the link to East Anglia seemed to have been achieved by use of a hastily-set up and very cheap webcam. BBC1 viewers could only struggle to make out the two female contestants through a wobbly and hazy fog, rather like the scenes from the first landing on the moon by the Americans some fifty-five years earlier.

Secondly, the sound quality of the ‘conversation’ with the first contestant was terrible. After a minute or so of trying and failing to gain any information from her, studio presenter Matt Baker abandoned his attempted interview and asked the girl to sing, so that Sam Bailey could assess her vocals. Off she went. The resulting combination of terrible picture and out-of-synch sound quality must have sent the BBC director’s control room into despair, even as it was happening.

After about a minute, Baker interrupted and – calling the second contestant into the picture, he told her he no longer had time to interview her, but would she please take her turn to sing. There followed a repeat of the unacceptable picture and sound quality … and a collapse of the entire item. Baker apologised and asked Sam Bailey to move across the studio floor from where she would belt out a version of her latest tune.

This might have been quite good, was it not for the fact that, of said three-minute song, 70 seconds was performed – not that she knew it – with Sam Bailey’s microphone suffering from a technical hitch and producing no sound at all.

Thirty years ago, when I worked in ITV, the producer and/or director of the show would have been summarily sacked.

indoorThat was bad enough, but last night I turned in to watch BBC2’s first ‘live’ coverage of the World Indoor Athletics Championships now taking place in Poland.

This viewer could sense that all was not well when the first item was not ‘live’ at all, but instead a montage of footage from the women’s pentathlon competition earlier in the day, featuring highlights of four of the five events, but no plucky Brit competitor.

The resume was immediately followed by a ‘filler’ interview/conversation about the pentathlon between former multi-event British Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis and ‘that-chap-with short-silver-hair-who-interviewed-athletes-at the-end-of-races-at-the-2012-London-Olympics-but-nobody-knows-the-name-of’, which went on for nearly ten minutes whilst nothing much was happening on the track in the background behind them.

Not much enlightenment was coming from our presenters either, apart from the fact we learned that ‘all the girls would be giving of their best’ in an effort to win medals, which beforehand we might have assumed as a given.

When Denise referred to ‘all the girls’, she did include our plucky Brit competitor, Katerina Johnson-Thompson, who would definitely have been a medal contender … but for the fact she wasn’t there.

Apparently, she was ill on the very occasion that she had to meet the qualifying mark and therefore – although she was now back to her very best form – not having qualified, she was not here in Poland at all.

In the first half hour of the coverage last night, we saw the 800 metres event in the women’s pentathlon and the first heat in the men’s 3,000 metres … and that was it. Time, thankfully, to switch over to BBC1 and the comforts of A Question of Sport.


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About Bernadette Angell

After cutting her journalistic teeth in Boston USA, Bernadette met and married an Englishman, whom she followed back to London. Two decades and three children later, they divorced. She now occupies herself as a freelance writer (credits include television soaps and radio plays) and occasional amateur gardener. More Posts