Continuity announcers in the United Kingdom

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In the United Kingdom, continuity announcers are people who are employed to introduce programmes on radio and television networks, to promote forthcoming programmes on the station, to cross-promote programmes on the broadcaster's other stations where applicable and, sometimes, to provide information relating to the programme just broadcast.

The six pre-digital terrestrial television channels in the UK (BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5) make use of continuity announcers, and for most of the time, continuity announcements are presented live. Continuity announcers can also be found on digital and satellite channels, but most of these channels make use of pre-recorded announcements.

BBC[edit]

The BBC mainly uses live announcers on its flagship television channels BBC One and BBC Two, and mainly uses pre-recorded announcements on its digital channels (apart from BBC News and BBC Parliament, which do not use announcers at all). Separate continuity for BBC One and BBC Two in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is provided by regional announcers who also double as transmission directors. BBC Wales announcers also direct Wales Today news bulletins during breakfast, mid-afternoon and late night.

Presently, the only national radio station to use continuity announcers is BBC Radio 4, where many of the announcing staff also act as newsreaders and also introduce the station's Shipping Forecast. Until about 1990, BBC Radio 2 used continuity announcers (separate from newsreaders) for its weekend and evening output, but these have since disappeared. Similarly, BBC Radio 3 has downgraded the former role of its announcers in favour of a new style of presenter. Continuity announcers played a much heavier role on the pre-1967 BBC Home Service, BBC Light Programme and BBC Third Programme (and other services on the last-named's frequency). Announcing staff for BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Wales double as newsreaders and technical operators.

Continuity announcements for BBC television channels are broadcast from Red Bee Media at the White City Media Village in West London, with regional continuity teams based in the regional broadcasting centres in Belfast, Cardiff and Glasgow providing links for the regional variations of BBC One and BBC Two. CBBC and CBeebies continuity now airs from studios at MediaCityUK in Salford Quays – up until September 2011, CBBC presentation was broadcast from a small studio in the East Tower of BBC Television Centre while CBeebies presentation was pre-recorded at Teddington Studios. The announcing team for BBC Radio 4 work from a suite of studios on the 7th floor of Broadcasting House in London.

Historically, BBC announcers mostly spoke with Received Pronunciation, but the range of accents heard has widened considerably in recent years, and the general tone has become more informal.

In-vision continuity[edit]

Early continuity[edit]

Andrew Martin, an expert from the BBC archives, described continuity announcements as "an essential part of television," which "actually tell us quite a lot about the style, the kind of attitudes of television in their particular era."[1]

In-vision continuity announcers, who appeared on screen between programmes, were a staple part of television broadcasts from the very earliest days of television, because "there was a need for linking material between programmes just to kind of announce them." In the early days of television, it was almost like a variety bill in the theatre... [and when] an item would come on, somebody had to say what it was often listing an entire evening's up-coming programming in one link.[2][2]

The early announcers became "celebrities in their own right," often receiving considerable amounts of fan mail, as they were among the most recognisable on-screen individuals, appearing every day, at the start of an era when television celebrity was really invented. Early in-vision announcers included Jasmine Bligh, Elizabeth Cowell and Leslie Mitchell, formerly a newsreel announcer who famously re-opened the television service in 1946. The early continuity announcers were auditioned, as "they had to look good but they also had to speak well", not solely because of the class divide, but because clear speaking was crucial to their role.[2]

Later continuity[edit]

It is believed that in-vision continuity was last used during the peak viewing hours on BBC TV in the early 1960s, with a link into the Eurovision Song Contest 1963 the last-known example of the corporation's use of in-vision continuity (as well as existing out-of-vision continuity) across the national network.

Between the late 1960s and circa 1980, many of the BBC's English regions provided their own continuity on weekday evenings, including in-vision presentation – particularly at closedown. Regional in-vision continuity was still used by BBC South in Southampton, BBC Midlands in Birmingham and BBC North West in Manchester by the time English regional continuity was phased out. From 1998 to 2001, the Northern Ireland regional service on BBC Choice used in-vision continuity links.

Children's continuity[edit]

The presentation of children's programmes had in-vision continuity from its instigation until 1965. The best-known children's in-vision continuity face was that of schoolgirl Jennifer Gay, one of the Children's Hour announcers, who introduced such favourites as Muffin the Mule between 1949 and 1953.[3]

In-vision continuity was re-introduced as part of Children's BBC/CBBC) on 9 September 1985. From then until 1994, this came from the main BBC1 continuity suite itself, referred to as "the broom cupboard" and introduced by various presenters including Andy Crane, Andi Peters and Phillip Schofield; Since then, it has come from larger, specialised studios. As of September 2011, presentation for both CBBC and CBeebies originates from the BBC's MediaCityUK studios in Salford Quays, following the BBC Children's department move from London.

Modern continuity[edit]

In February 2008, BBC Three introduced in-vision continuity links, in the form of live links with presenter Jose Vanders and recorded links with BBC Three viewers. For a time, the BBC Three website offered viewers the opportunity to record links for programmes. The live in-vision links were dropped after only a few months although live out-of-vision continuity during peak time returned in September 2011.

On 19 September 2008, the Scottish Gaelic-language digital channel BBC Alba launched with in-vision continuity from the channel's sole announcer, Fiona MacKenzie. A second in-vision announcer, Moira MacDonald, was appointed in July 2009. All continuity links are pre-recorded in Stornoway and transmitted from BBC Scotland's headquarters in Glasgow.

ITV[edit]

All announcements for ITV plc-owned stations on ITV, UTV and Channel Television, and for ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 come from the company's main transmission facilities at Technicolor in Chiswick, with separate teams of continuity announcers based at the separately-owned STV's headquarters in Pacific Quay, Glasgow.

Most announcements broadcast on ITV are conducted live, while overnight announcements, regional continuity on UTV and continuity for ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 are usually pre-recorded, along with regional continuity. All of ITV plc's announcers work on a freelance basis.

STV uses live continuity during the evening (between around 5pm and midnight) with daytime announcements pre-recorded by the duty prime time announcer during their shift. STV-branded presentation is utilised throughout the station's broadcast hours with transmission manned by technical staff in Glasgow 24 hours a day.

The consolidation of ITV companies during the 1990s and 2000s led to the closure of transmission and continuity facilities at some ITV company studios:

ITV region ITV company at time of last known announcement Date of last known announcement
The Borders Border Television Late 1999/early 2000 (regional continuity moved to Yorkshire Television in Leeds).
Central Scotland Scottish Television Still has regional continuity (also heard in Northern Scotland).
Channel Islands Channel Television 28 October 2002, when continuity moved to London.
East of England Anglia Television Circa 2000 (regional continuity moved to Meridian Broadcasting in Southampton).
London ITV London Still has regional continuity (now networked on ITV).
Midlands Central Independent Television 28 October 2002 (regional continuity moved to The London Studios).
Transmission moved to Yorkshire Television in Leeds in 2004.
North Scotland Grampian Television July 1998 (regional continuity moved to STV in Glasgow).
North East England Tyne Tees Television 16 March 1996 (regional continuity moved to Yorkshire Television in Leeds).
Transmission moved to Leeds in early September 1993 (probably September 4);
All non-live presentation fed from Leeds starting 1 January 1993.
North West England Granada Television 1998 (regional continuity moved to Yorkshire Television in Leeds).
Northern Ireland UTV Still has regional continuity. Transmission moved to Chiswick on 17 October 2016.
South and South East Meridian Broadcasting 28 October 2002 (regional continuity moved to The London Studios).
Wales and West HTV Wales/HTV West 15 January 2006 for Wales (regional continuity moved to The London Studios),
2000 for West (regional continuity moved to Meridian Broadcasting in Southampton).
South West England Westcountry Television 28 October 2002 (regional continuity moved to The London Studios).
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Yorkshire Television 28 October 2002 (regional continuity moved to The London Studios).

In-vision continuity[edit]

The use of on screen continuity announcers was common on ITV when each region was run by an independent company with their own transmission and continuity facilities. During the 1980s and 1990s, many regional companies abandoned the use of in-vision continuity announcers:

ITV region ITV company at time of last known in-vision announcement Date of last known in-vision announcement
The Borders Border Television Still in use in 1999, believed to have been dropped when continuity moved to Yorkshire Television in Leeds.
Central Scotland Scottish Television Dropped January 1989 for general continuity, retained for Scottish Through the Night only. Believed to have been dropped in October 1991.[4]
Channel Islands Channel Television Still in use in late 1990s.
East of England Anglia Television Still in use in 1990 for Anglia Through the Night only, dropped in September 1991.
London Thames Television/London Weekend Television Thames: probably the end of 1987 in the evenings, 1988 in daytime and 1991 for overnights. LWT: around the end of 1982.
Midlands Central Independent Television Still in use in April 1987, dropped soon afterwards.[5]
North Scotland Grampian Television Dropped early 1998, shortly before continuity moved to STV in Glasgow.
North East England Tyne Tees Television Dropped on 16 March 1996, when continuity moved to Yorkshire Television in Leeds.
Previously dropped in 1970 (at the same time as Yorkshire following the Trident takeover), reintroduced in 1971.
North West England Granada Television Still in use in 1996, dropped before continuity moved to Yorkshire Television in Leeds.[6]
Northern Ireland UTV 16 October 2016.
South and South East Meridian Broadcasting 1995 - Meridian only used IVC during Nighttime at weekends. Their predecessors, TVS dropped in-vision in the daytime and evening in September 1987,
but in-vision links continued for Late Night Late until September 1991.[7]
Wales and West HTV Wales/HTV West Wales: 31 December 1992. West: circa July 1993.
South West England Television South West 31 December 1992.
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Yorkshire Television 1970.

The only ITV companies which have never used in-vision continuity are Carlton Television (London) and Westcountry Television, who both began broadcasting on 1 January 1993.

Channel 4[edit]

Channel 4 employs continuity announcers on its network of stations; 4seven, Channel 4, E4, Film4 and More4. All announcements come from Red Bee Media at White City Media Village in West London. Since 2009, Red Bee have provided playout facilities for Channel 4. On 4seven, E4 and More4, announcements during evening primetime are now commonly broadcast live, with recorded announcements at other times; most announcements on Channel 4 are live. Announcements for 4Music programming, where used, are usually pre-recorded.

In-vision continuity[edit]

Channel 4 used links featuring the announcer on-screen for a brief period following its launch in 1982, mainly at closedown. The station briefly reprised the use of in-vision continuity links for a short period from 1996, used mainly in evening transmissions.

S4C[edit]

S4C announcers provide live out-of-vision continuity links from the channel's headquarters in Llanishen, Cardiff.

In-vision continuity[edit]

S4C used in-vision continuity throughout broadcast hours from launch in November 1982 until around 1991.

In-vision presentation continues to be utilised during S4C's children strands, Cyw (for young children) and Stwnsh (for older children). Stwnsh links are mostly conducted live whereas Cyw links are mostly pre-recorded. Characters and presenters from S4C's Cyw output occasionally appear as guest announcers.

Children's presentation is produced by independent production companies Boomerang (Stwnsh/Cyw in-vision links) and Cwmni Da (Cyw).

Channel 5[edit]

Channel 5 use announcers on its network of stations; 5*, 5USA and Channel 5. All announcements come from Channel 5's transmission facility in London.

In-vision continuity[edit]

Channel 5 has only used on-screen announcers as part of its children's strand, Milkshake! which comes from studios at Hawley Crescent, London.

Sky1[edit]

Sky1 out-of-vision continuity is broadcast live in the evening with pre-recorded links broadcast during the day and overnight.

Sky Living[edit]

Sky Living out-of-vision continuity is live, as of January 2016.

Sky Movies[edit]

Sky Movies out-of-vision continuity is live, since January 2016.

See also[edit]

List of continuity announcers in the United Kingdom

References[edit]