CRAIG BROWN: Here is the news… and it’s fab-u-lous – 10 strictly facts About Newsreaders
1. It’s still early days, but, so far, two of the contestants announced for this year’s Strictly Come Dancing – Angela Rippon and Krishnan Guru-Murthy – are news presenters. And there may well be more to come.
2. With the line between newsreading and ballroom dancing growing ever more fluid, Craig Revel Horwood is tipped to take over from Huw Edwards as the lead presenter of News At Ten.
In training sessions, examiners praised Revel Horwood for his clarity and dynamism, but marked him down for bringing his own opinions to bear on the news. For instance, he closed a report from the Liberal Democratic Party on climate change with the verdict: ‘Dull, darling – dull, dull, dull!’
3. On another occasion, some critics considered it inappropriate when Revel Horwood signed off an interview with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on the downturn in the British economy with the words: ‘Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous darling! Yes, it’s a nine from me!’
4. History tells us that it’s only a short hop from the higher peaks of newsreading to the lower slopes of light entertainment. Many forget that Tommy Cooper started his career as the lead presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, and that Ken Dodd chaired Question Time for ten years before giving it all up to tackle the more demanding art of comedy. More recently, Keith Lemon co-presented Newsnight alongside Kirsty Wark.
With the line between newsreading and ballroom dancing growing ever more fluid, Craig Revel Horwood (pictured) is tipped to take over from Huw Edwards as the lead presenter of News At Ten
5. But sometimes it works the other way round. Before she became social affairs editor at the BBC in 1988, Polly Toynbee spent three seasons as the female member of The Krankies comedy duo. She took over the role of Wee Jimmy Krankie while its creator, Janette Tough, became economics correspondent for News At Ten.
6. It was not until 1978 that BBC newsreaders were finally permitted to stand up in public.
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‘The governors of the BBC felt that it would undermine newsreaders’ gravitas if they were seen standing and walking around,’ reports cultural historian Jon Savage. ‘So they were obliged to travel everywhere on an office chair with wheels, with a desk in front of them.’ For two years, the pavement outside Broadcasting House had a designated newsreaders’ lane, exclusively reserved for these desk-bound travellers.
7. When newsreaders were finally allowed to stand, many were surprised by how tall they turned out to be.
Alastair Burnet is estimated to have been ‘at least’ 6ft 6in tall, and Kenneth Kendall even taller at 6ft 9in. More recently Jennie Bond, 6ft 2in tall and the BBC’s royal correspondent throughout the 1990s, was always obliged to stand well back from the camera so as not to dwarf senior members of the Royal Family, including Princess Margaret (5ft 1in) and the Queen Mother (5ft 2in).
8. The recruitment of Angela Rippon and Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s to Strictly is said to have provoked envy in several rival news presenters. Some are attempting to catch the eye of the show’s producers with covert dance routines in the hope of securing slots in the forthcoming series.
Sharp-eyed viewers reported spotting Clive Myrie performing the cha cha cha while interviewing Michael Gove outside the Palace of Westminster for the News At Six on BBC1. However, Gove — determined to win a place on Strictly for himself — trumped Myrie by launching into a spirited rumba while addressing his questions on levelling up.
Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke will be the judges on the Strictly Come Dancing 2023
9. The Association of Dancing Newsreaders, a pressure group for broadcasters with a strong sense of rhythm, was formed in February 2002. Its members meet every Tuesday evening to dance the foxtrot to the music from Channel 4 News.
Over the years, a number of its members have danced their way to success on Strictly. Natasha Kaplinsky won in 2004. Robert Peston was runner-up in 2006. Peter Sissons trounced Ann Widdecombe to win in 2010, scoring four tens for his ‘immaculate’ paso doble, while John Humphrys was a finalist alongside Debbie McGee in 2017.
10. In the days when newsreaders still sat behind desks, one or two secretly practised their dance steps below the desk while remaining stock-still above it.
One such newsreader was Michael Flatley, who went on to employ the skills he learned as a newsreader as frontman for the world-famous Riverdance.
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