Almost every person with autism has one or two interests that mean an awful lot to them, sometimes being things which they talk about at any opportunity.
As they are so enthusiastic about what they like, they feel the need to talk about their loves and even if the person that is on the receiving end of the conversation isn’t interested, there is still a desire to chat and chat and chat.
Usually, such an interest is popular with others such as trainspotting or planespotting but others are quite specialist, and I want to educate you all on something that I love which is a hidden part of the life of any television viewer.
Have you heard a continuity announcer speaking to you today, or have you seen a bit of television presentation that has caught your attention?
You are probably wondering what I am talking about and if you don’t mind me saying, you are probably a bit confused too.
Am I right? Do I need to explain what I’m going on about?
It wouldn’t be a surprise if I do, because the world of announcing and presentation is something which I have to explain my love for whenever I bring it up in conversation.
Essentially, announcers are the people that talk over the beginning and the end of a television programme.
They are the voice that tells you what is coming up next, and they take care of a channel’s output on-screen if it decides to play up at any time for any reason.
They can also be heard on the radio through stations such as BBC Radio 4 and Classic FM, both radio stations in Great Britain, while the use of an announcer is far more common on the small screen as they are used by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 as British television broadcasters, alongside a raft of digital services across Freeview, Sky Digital, Virgin Media and other platforms.
Mostly being used out-of-vision, meaning that they can only be heard and not seen, the role of an announcer has changed in recent years from a personality that would appear in front of a television camera and entertain the nation to a handy reminder that merely keeps viewers informed of what they can expect to watch if they are having a quiet night in.
My passion has grown from stumbling across TV50’s tribute to presentation in Great Britain on a dark Sunday night when I was sitting in my room, and it has continued to develop over an eight-year period.
TV Ark and Transdiffusion now sustain my hunger for perhaps a surprising hobby and by connecting with announcers through social networking websites, a thrill that has come from getting to know the people behind the voices that are so intriguing to me has been something that I have loved.
Mark Manchester, once a continuity announcer on ITV and now a senior continuity producer for ESPN UK, is one such announcer who has shared his thoughts with me on more than one occasion and by announcing for a fast-paced modern world, he feels that the industry has changed an awful lot over the years.
On its definition, Manchester believes “consistency and stability” are key and “in television, that means providing a seamless link between broadcast items; being the friendly voice that guides the viewer through whatever they’re watching and of course being the calm and recognisable presence for when it all goes wrong”.
By feeling such a vital part of the well-oiled machine that is a television channel, he goes on to say: “The role itself is perhaps one of the best ‘promotional tools’ a channel can ask for.
“More people pay attention to a continuity announcer than they might a promotional voice for the simple reason that all of their attention is focused on the start or the ending of something they’ve actually chosen to sit and watch.
“Get it right and you can actively provide a bigger audience for a programme that otherwise might not have reached a particular group of people. Get it wrong though, and you’ll get the inevitable complaints about a favourite programme being ‘ruined’ by ‘that annoying announcer’ and the message will be lost.”
Despite this pressure to ensure that you reach viewers in the best possible way, Manchester speaks highly of his time at ITV which ended in January 2013.
Being the voice of the channel during the morning and afternoon, you would have heard his voice before and after The Jeremy Kyle Show, This Morning and Loose Women amongst other programmes and he enjoyed the responsibility of introducing each and every one of them.
He says: “I worked for ITV for a decade as an announcer and loved every minute of it.
“You get a real buzz from live broadcasting that is hard to replicate in anything else.
“You never really get to grips with the fact that millions of people are listening to you at any one time, in fact it’s often best not to think about that at all, but being able to reflect instantly on something you’ve just shared with the viewer is unique. If you can say exactly what they’re thinking, you form an instant connection and make yourself far more personable for it.”
Given how talented Manchester is, it is surprising to know that working from a continuity booth wasn’t his ideal career choice.
Personally, having a career in announcing is something that I would love to have and while I tried to get into the industry during my final year at university, I have had a similar experience in finding that talking to an audience through a microphone is a great thing to do.
Radio was Manchester’s passion, and an interest in television has led to a job that has allowed him to transfer his skills to a different type of broadcasting.
I’ll leave you with his journey to millions of TV sets around the country, and know in myself that dreams can come true if you push them hard enough.
He says: “Personally, I never really set out to be a continuity announcer.
“I’d always had a passion for broadcasting, but radio was more my thing when I was younger.
“Announcing was something that I fell into by chance but found that I had a knack for it. I suppose being a bit of a television anorak helps. It’s like anything, if you understand the ‘product’ and you’re familiar with it, you’re always going to be able to sell it better than someone who isn’t.
“You need to deliver your ‘lines’ as you might to someone who’s sat in the room with you. Reading a script, and sounding like you’re reading a script is where so many announcers go wrong.
“You never want to patronise or make the viewer feel inferior and a bland, uninteresting announcement will make the viewer tune out. Not off, I’m sure they’ll stay for their programme regardless, but a dull announcement is a wasted promotional opportunity.
“At the end of the day, the programme is ‘the star’, the announcer is just the warm-up.”