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From: Ben Bennetts
Sent: Sunday, February 7, 2021 11:29 AM
To: worldservice.letters@bbc.co.uk
Subject: BBC World Service Comments, Part 2


On October 8, 2016, I sent you an open letter containing comments, good and bad, about the BBC World Service radio broadcasts. In this letter, I mentioned that, as a semi-insomniac, I often listen to your broadcast between 02:00-ish and 05:30-ish and I made several observations about the programmes I enjoyed – Outlook, HARDTalk, Health Check, Newsday, etc – and the strange happenings in the continuity announcements before the news summaries and within the news itself – upcoming programme teasers, hard-to-catch surnames, and, of course, comments on Neil Nunes’ mellifluous-or-plummy Marmite accent.

Well, four and a bit years have passed and I thought I would follow-up on my original open letter with some further comments. I’m still a semi-insomniac and I still listen to your programmes and, quite frankly, not much has changed!

In my October 2016 letter, I mentioned the female continuity presenter thus: As the time (for the news summary) approaches, first we get a presenter (female, I’ve never found out who she is but she’s always “on air, online, on mobile—broadcasting to a global audience”) telling us in a strange accent with even stranger intonation and cadence that “The news is next but first…” and then she proceeds to inform about an upcoming broadcast in a few days’ time. 

I have singularly failed to identify the name of this presenter. At first, I thought it might be Zoe Diamond but listening to these two YouTube videos (Zoe reading the shipping forecast and her introduction to World Book Club), it’s not Zoe. I can’t place the accent (but that may be because of my hearing impairment) but whoever she is has a tendency to start every other sentence with the coordinating conjunction and. I’ve no problem with starting a sentence with a coordinating conjunction such as and, but, for, yet, but she overdoes it and the two sentences are not necessarily linked i.e., the coordinating function is either weakly implied or missing. For example, I’ve heard her say, “This is the BBC Word Service. And, in thirty minutes…” The And at the beginning of the second sentence is not needed and, in my opinion, the message about what will happen in thirty minutes would be stronger if the And was omitted. I’ve even heard her start her continuity announcement with the second sentence!

I would dearly like to know the name of this continuity presenter, not to castigate her but simply to place her accent.

Moving on to the news summaries, in 2016 I mentioned Stewart Mackintosh’s pseudo-best-buddy Hello, spoken in a hail-fellow-well-met style. At 7 PM in the local pub, it’s great but at 3 AM in bed, not so. Since then, I’ve been keeping track of the styles of the hello greetings spoken by the news readers. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

There seems to be a requirement for a news reader to introduce three elements into their introduction to the summary – a greeting, a name, and a reference to the name of the radio programme. The standard style is, “Hello, I am <name> with the BBC News.” You will find this style used by Chris Barrow, Neil Nunes, Debbie Russ, Warren Alderson, David Harper, Eileen McCue, Danielle Jalowiecka, Daniel Iovanescu and Justine Greene, at least. Sometimes, a presenter will deviate from this standard format. For example: “BBC News. Hello. I’m Tom Watts.” “BBC News. Hello, this is Jerry Smit.” “I’m Stewart Macintosh with the BBC News. Hello.” (The best-buddy style.) Clearly, these three readers like to ring the changes but they still adhere to the three-attributes requirement. And then there are the non-conformists who omit the mandatory greeting: “This is the BBC News with Fiona McDonald.” “BBC news with Neil Nunes.” (This is true! He sometimes omits the hello.)  “BBC News. I’m John Shay.” “BBC news with Daniel Yaluyasga.” and “BBC News with Sue Montgomery.” (You have to hear Sue Montgomery introduce herself to appreciate the sotto voce lullabylike way she says each syllable of her surname.)

As you can see, I am now taking notes at 3 o’clock in the morning! No, not really. I have heard all these announcements in the wee small hours but here’s my backup reference: BBC reader on the Chinese website, congxue.com

One last comment. Around halfway through a news summary, another requirement is for the news reader to intone the name of the broadcast – “BBC News” or as Neil Nunes sometimes says, “BBC Wer-Hurled Service”. I’ve never figured out why the readers are required to do this. If I’m listening to the broadcast, either in real time or as a podcast, I know the source. Why do I need to be reminded? It’s an oddity verging on the edge of an absurdity.

Apart from these trivial criticisms, you are doing a great job. I arise every morning brimming with new information, up to speed on world events, and ready to face the day ahead. Thanks!