Peter Sissons 11/2/2010


Peter Sissons came in to talk about his time as newsreader, of which I found really interesting. He talked about how newsreading is more than just sitting at a desk.  Peter said how a good reporter goes out and finds out about the story themselves; they don’t just expect to be given it. Peter also discussed how ITV (ITN at the time) when he began was a small company; something I could never have imagined now; and the BBC before he left was such a large organisation that he never even saw the head of news. Peter also discussed how when he worked at BBC News 24, it meant he was stuck in the studio.

Peter described how he was very lucky in his career, in that the strikes of the 1970’s made his career, as it generated a lot of news stories, so gave him a lot to report on. Also, he was the newsreader for the Channel 4 News launch in 1982- this could’ve gone either way; a great success or a great fail. But Peter said that it was in fact a great success, so much so that other shows attempted to copy the format. Peter admired the format of C4 News greatly; the “rubbish set” with no desks, balancing paper on their laps. But Peter said this was a great success and programmes such as ‘Newsnight’ on the BBC attempted to copy the no desk format. Peter also said that his 7 years at C4 are the years he is most proud of and also BAFTA nominated.

Peter described how he was tempted away from ITN by BBC with a 3 year deal of £500,000! He said that it was a “great privilege to be handed the microphone of a major broadcasting channel”. He described how he has strict rules in his mind on how the news should be delivered to the public: – continuity of presenters, so the public know who will be presenting (which he got at BBC) – piece to camera explains why the reporter is there, not the reporter constantly in front of the camera – reporter should stand still –  and should let the images do the talking. Peter said how he felt that the current news programmes now market the news, rather than delivering it. The programmes use fancy graphics and short sound bites to keep the audience’s attentions.

Critical Reflection

News reading is more than just sitting at a desk; which in all honesty, I didn’t know, I thought that the newsreaders you see on the television just read the news. However, I suppose this is often the case and if it is not it is most certainly the impression they give.  Peter discussed how ITV (ITN at the time) when he began was a small company; something I could never have imagined now;  and the BBC before he left was such a large organisation that he never even saw the head of news. This is understandable, considering how large an organisation the BBC is, despite Peter suggesting in his tone that this was a bad thing. I am not suggesting it is a good thing that at all, just that although quite shocking, it is understandable due to the size of the BBC. As for Peter saying that working at BBC News 24 he was stuck in the studio; I imagine for a newsreader who likes to get out and find out about the stories himself must have been frustrating (which actually was the impression I got). However, I imagine now if all the news-readers were out of the studio chasing stories, it would cause a lot of issues, first and foremost there wouldn’t always be a presenter on hand for breaking  news bulletins and probably because there are people who are paid to research the stories. It would be like buying a hair dryer but never using it.

Peter’s luck with the strikes in the 1970’s generating a lot of news reports, were in essence just that- luck. Although it could be argued that those stories would not have been given to him if they did not think he was deserving of a successful career- because surely they would have known that the reporter covering these stories would get high-exposure. Peter again benefited from luck when the launch show of Channel 4’s new news programme was successful. But then again, this could also be due his technique as a presenter, not just pure luck, especially as in 1982 there would have been a greater audience and interest in the news, so a bad presenter would more than likely have caused an audience to switch off from the programme. As for Peter’s praise of the new design of set, I find odd, as news without a desk seems like a DVD without the player. But Peter said that other programmes copied the format, so clearly it must have been a success. And Peter even went on to say that his time on C4 news are the 7 years he is most proud of and especially as it was multiple-BAFTA nominated; which I did not know about at all and quite surprised about as I did not think that honestly C4 News was really taken seriously- probably due to BBC and ITV’s dominance.

I found the £500,000 Peter was offered to transfer stations, was an astonishing amount for 1989, even if it was over 3 years, I still found it a staggering amount for 20 years ago- now incidentally it is nothing compared to wages of celebrities and footballers.  I was surprised how passionately he felt towards the job he once did, in regards to his opinions on the rules that should be observed when reporting/presenting the news, which I do agree with. I also agree with Peter that the news is now marketed; the extensive use of graphics I agree are irritating, although possibly they are needed to keep a younger audience interested as the news as a programme can be quite dull sometimes. Though, that could just be the fact they channels make it a programme that has to be a certain length, therefore including unnecessary stories just to extend it to the full time slot; so possibly it should just be about delivering the news the way Peter suggests for as long as it takes to get the important stories across rather than making it a programme set to a time slot?

All in all, I found it very interesting to listen to Peter Sissons’s conversation. I did not think that someone could be as passionate as he is about newsreading. I think Peter is definitely right that the news is marketed, there are even advertisements for the news now.  I also think that he is right about how the news should be delivered (and he was right to wear the maroon tie, he did as he was told and it was just bad luck that the navy one on ITV looked darker than it was and that his looked lighter than it was on camera!)


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