Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pouting Newsreaders

Is it just me or, of late, have ITN and BBC News started to employ female newsreaders of a certain type only? The doe-eyed, arched-eyebrowed, pouting, collagen-lipped type? I've just been watching ITN News and I swear that Nina Hossain's main role is not newsreading so much as it is the important business of pouting at the camera while raising her left eyebrow from time to time. It's not just her. There are so many Nina Hossainalikes - Kaplinsky, Katie Derham, Kirsty Young (perhaps) and, of course, Fiona Bruce (so well parodied by Jan Ravens in Dead Ringers - 'I'm Fiona Bruce; breaking news, breaking hearts...puurrrrr'). I wonder if there's some kind of newsreaders' training school these presenters have to attend. I imagine that in the first week they learn how to keep a slightly self-satisfied, half-smile on their face, even when recounting the details of some atrocity. In the second week they perfect the art of making come-hither, doe eyes at the camera. In the third week, it's out of the classroom for a week of cat shadowing in order to get those feline mannerisms down pat, and in the fourth week it's 7 gruelling days of intensive eyebrow lift weight training.

Of course, the reason why female newsreaders seem, more and more, to conform to a certain type, is almost certainly because the people who make the recruiting decisions are men. I'm not suggesting that any of the above newsreaders are not intelligent or not good journalists - I just rather suspect that they got the presenting job, in large part, because of their male viewer friendly looks. Why can't we have normal looking news readers? You know, ones who look like 99% of the rest of the population and not some cross between a porn star and a particularly languid cat. It's noticeable, of course, that the same kind of rules don't seem to apply for male applicants for the position of newsreader - you don't see Huw Edwards or Peter Sissons doing an awful lot of smouldering and I can't see any of them getting a Pantene Pro-V contract.

Perhaps it's always been like this - and of course, the media has always been a bastion of sexism. But I can't help thinking that the rise of the pouting newsreader reflects the continuing headlong plunge of the increasingly corporate UK media into a US broadcasting style, dumbed down, infotainment, celebtastic, 10-second-attention-span, intelligent comment free zone. How long can it be, before it's no longer possible to draw a hard and fast distinction between the world of 'serious news' and Heat magazine? I suspect there have already been several Kaplinsky related features in that particular publication.

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