News for hearing – music for listening!
Posted on November 14th, 2011

Dr.Tilak Fenando

 

 In Letters to the Editor column (sometime in June) Melville Perera in Kohuwela wrote on “ƒ”¹…”Radio/TV News reporting and Ads’ and made no bones about it when he clearly voiced his opinion viz:

“Be it anywhere, people are interested in reading or listening to news, local as well as international, relayed over the electronic media”.

“It is regretted to note however that one feature of this reporting is the speed at which it is delivered. News is an important issue for the general public and a part of everyday life. Therefore, it must be reported and disseminated in a manner that will be receptive to the listeners.”

Broadcasting of news which was once dominated by Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation, later Rupavahini and ITN drew people to news bulletins. Today we have car radios to listen to news and music while travelling.

News casting is another form of journalism which has been popular since the early 20th century. Currently, the television is by far the most popular news source media available the world over.

News programmes

A lot of hard work goes behind a news bulletin prior to its broadcast. Behind the scenes work many whose contribution makes the final programme complete. Primarily the anchor men and women feed the network, the news director organizes and delegates the stories, sales manager generates the programme’s income by selling advertising time and promoting the programme and engineers supervise the camera crew and sound technicians ensure that the broadcast runs smoothly. Newscaster in particular has a tremendous impact on viewers as a “ƒ”¹…”public face’, face-to-face as it were, with the audience in either magnetising or repelling an audience.

Another aspect is overloading a news bulletin with commercials which reduces the allocated news time which in a way makes the news reader to read at rocket speed to get through what is written on a script. In such a backdrop all responsible staff for news programmes have to constantly monitor the standard of their own news releases, observe and listen to their own newscasters, monitor delivery, speed and style to ensure that the hard work done by many behind the scenes is reaping benefits or whether newsreader appears to be a pain in the neck to listeners.

There is no doubt, some of our newscasters (particularly English) are not getting through to the public one hundred percent with clarity at the speed which they read news. Rather they appear to read the script to themselves! News reading is not like reading a book. People hear news and listen to music. There is a vast difference between the two.

University graduates

Meville Perera’s analysis on the “ƒ”¹…”madrush’ on the part of most of the newscasters can be argued favourably. Some of our local newscasters are trying to impress either on their command of the language with an artificial, borrowed or an affected accent and swallowing words most of the time which makes no sense or does not serve any purpose to the listener. Surely no one wants to listen to a presenter just droning on!

Most people speak at three words a second. If one were to listen to BBC, CNN or other similar international television news bulletins this becomes crystal clear. News has to be read in a fashion (what is normally accepted as BBC English) which is clear and soothing to the ear.

Some of our newscasters seem to be quite ignorant on this issue, as much as their management. The main criteria to adopt for newsreaders would be to slow down in their delivery because one’s natural speaking will be too fast for a listener to take everything a newsreader utters.

Therefore, the mantra for news reading is supposed to make every word matter while reading a script with confidence and pronouncing every word evenly without trailing off at the end of a sentence or swallowing at the end of words. A presenter needs to put emphasis on certain words accordingly and pretend that he/she is addressing a specific person and not a wide audience through the network.

Western news media usually employ university graduates, preferably with a degree in journalism.

When hiring a newscaster it becomes the News Editor’s responsibility to give much weight to the applicant’s previous career and to assess the applicant with a voice testing exercise and not to get overcome by the looks of an applicant!

Quality and clarity

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation adopted a strict formula (from Radio Ceylon days) in selecting radio announcers was subsequently followed by Rupavahini and ITN. The first qualification they sought was to ensure an applicant had a “ƒ”¹…”voice for the microphone’.

During this exercise, applicants had three samples to read from (a) a commercial (b) a news script (c) an obituary notice, as it demanded three different approaches and delivery styles to get through to the listeners. Selected applicants were graded as A, B and C announcers. Even after that, they were trained internally prior to pushing them into the deep end of casting news. This maintained quality and clarity.

With the advent of private establishments coming into the scene such procedures have flown through the window and the most suitable qualification to become a presenter/news reader today is mainly to be a female, attractive looking and the amount of influence one has with the top hierarchy no matter whether the programmes or news casting go to hell!

The most idiotic procedure adopted today by many broadcasting institutions is to assign celluloid clan and politicos to be presenters on TV with a view to increase their viewer ratings.

If that is their motive then they should pick teledramas or films of such celebrities for their channels and/or politicos to discussion programmes rather than placing them in a proverbial dog in the manger situation.

tilakfernando@yahoo.co.uk

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