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  • Writer's pictureMark Hall

A friendly voice on your UK telly!

In Vision continuity from Anglia TV in the 1980's

For many, television continuity isn’t a recognisable thing, our parents probably wouldn’t understand the concept but if they grew up in the UK it has nearly always been a staple part of TV life. On terrestrial UK channels we take it for granted that a friendly voice will be there introducing our programmes, directing us to other things we might like and updating us with news of things that are happening in our everyday lives.

Good continuity is a great skill, a creative use of language, the ability to talk in berevity and, of course an engaging and appealing voice that we can easily warm to.

Continuity though is changing and evolving. I grew up in the Anglia television region and just about remember the continuity being ‘in vision’. A small team of friendly faces telling us it was time for Coronation Street and very occasionally a locally made ITV programme (yup Sale of the Century and not much more). At Christmas it got even more exciting as these announcers would relocate to a comfy chair and some years a fireplace. BBC and ITV announcers at the time all spoke very proper ‘RP’ English. If you listen back now it almost sounds robotic but then we expected people on the telly and radio to sound not like us.

Go abroad and stick the TV on and continuity is a rare thing. Most channels have managed to transform into a slick operation using promos and voiceovers to direct you around the output. Perhaps continuity is a typically british thing conistering all five of our main channels persist with it here is 2022.

Heading back to East Anglia I remember when the famous Anglia Knight was replaced by a very futuristic computerised flag. A clever transition as of course the Knight held a flag in his hand. Time was moving on. For local TV the flag was impressive, new music, catchy logo but, hang on, the continuity announcer had dissapeard and is now just a voice. There were certain sequences where you would still see them. Late at night or birthday club but on the whole the role had changed.

I went to an amazing show on the southbank a few years ago showing how television has changed over the years. The biggest thing that struck me then was how, in around 2005, continuity changed. Promos up until this point had mainly been narration with clips, then they transformed into slicker pieces the pictures and dialogue doing the work with more endboards and end voiceovers only. Even in 2000 we were getting big promos for the festive season which began with ‘This Christmas day on BBC One its all action down queen vic’ Now – this just doesn’t happen.

What I’m getting to here is that recently, on a main channel I heard the announcer introduce a programme and use ‘haich’ instead of ‘H’. Initially it pricked up my ears and I felt it was wrong. But is it? Our world has changed, there are now very few RP continuity announcers. First of all it was announcers with just really great voices with a more natural sound and tone. In recent years more regional accents, accents from around the world which stacks up to a channel having a very different feel.

On BBC One now you can hear announcers with natural more urban sounding voices mixed with the more traditional. The more I think about it the more I like it. Every night you can have a different feel. It is not like a previous generation of RP professionals informing you of the programming. These are real voices, nice voices with personalities that are and sound like real people. The kind of person you could chat to in the shop or in a bar.

As more television moves from linear to on demand I believe continuity is increasingly important for the survival of channels such as BBC One or ITV. The programmes are on demand, the ads are on demand but the voice welcoming you to the channel and telling you what is going on is totally unique. Have you noticed now how the announcer will often tell you who the are ‘and live with you tonight on BBC One’. Odd to begin but, you know, it works. Why should we want this anonymous voice in our homes. Now when ‘Duncan’ says something clever, witty and funny I can relate to this person, he has a name, he might be even real!

Long live British television continuity and long may it survive live. One important element that adds life and personality to a channel that helps to make it a living and loved thing.

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