Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Here is the news

In the ongoing battle for ratings, news programmes have dramatically shifted the emphasis they place on the role of the newsreader. The days of the stern, well-spoken authoritarian are long gone; now we have to endure countless mixed-sex pairings who engage in frothy lightweight banter in between hard-hotting stories about Iraqi insuregents or waterborne diseases in the Playboy grotto.

The challenge for producers, is to find a pair of presenters with enough chemistry to keep the conversation going whenever the satellite link plays up, without it degenerating into mindless chit-chat. Sometimes, however, even that's not enough, as ITV's recent Daybreak fiasco proved. Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley might have been able to comfortably spark off each other on The One Show, but transplanted to a morning news show, they all the warm-hearted effervescence of Kramer vs Kramer.

It must be tough, trying to portray an effortless camaraderie in a series of tenuous segues and three-second wrap-ups. Viewers need to be left with the impression that, off-camera, you're forever popping in to borrow cups of sugar, or offering to pick up each other's kids from daycare.

But there's a fine line to tread. A bit of playful flirtation is fine, but we don't want to picture them sneaking off to the green room at the Christmas Party to make a different kind of live link-up.

The rules are pretty simple. 1) Laugh at each other's jokes, even when they're about as funny as a Shrek marathon. 2) Don't glaze over when your co-host is speaking. 3) Don't fight over who says what on the autocue. Finally (and this is REALLY important), 4) Leave their genitals out of the conversation.

Someone obviously forgot to give frosty newsreader Belinda Heggen the 101 of on-air etiquette, since the Adelaide-based presenter is now all over the internet thanks to her live putdown of co-host Mark Aiston. Following a brief OB about cricketer Andrew Strauss showing off his mini trophy, Aiston handed over to Belinda, saying "I just can't understand how something so small can be so impressive." 

Quick as a flash, the cold-hearted minx shot back with "Well Mark, you would know all about that." If her insinuation is true, the old news cliche of "This, just in..." must fill Aiston with shame, every time he hears it.

Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy - in the time it takes for Belinda to turn and face camera 2, you can almost hear Aiston's appendage shrivelling up inside his pubis. And she means it - no wink, no conciliatory smile, just a point-blank killshot and on with the show.

If Ten News wants to keep its ratings up, it should probably encourage the ongoing animosity between these two - it's got to be more entertaining than regular cricket updates. I imagine it wouldn't be too long before Aiston transmogrifies into Ron Burgundy, and tells Heggen to go back to her home on Whore Island.

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