The End Of Timeworn TV Techniques
August 31, 2007

350tvnewstechniquesBy David Kermode, Editor of Five News

I am the new editor of Five News, which is produced by Sky News.

There’s a debate raging right now about trust in television. It was the talking point at last weekend’s Edinburgh TV festival, with much soul searching after a torrid year for the medium.

The big scandals have been around call TV and ripping off viewers, but the process of editing and sequencing of pictures has also been under the spotlight (just look at the fall out from the BBC’s Queen promo).

It got me thinking.

When I started in TV news (at Sky News, incidentally) thirteen years ago, we worked with tape-to-tape editing machines. If you wanted to edit two clips together of someone talking, you needed some sort of ‘device’ to cover the join between the bits you wanted. Thus, many years previously, the ‘noddy’ was born.

The noddy is best described as a contrived shot of the reporter appearing to ‘react’ or nod at the interviewee. It is generally recorded after the guest has left. It is an old fashioned TV news trick. That said, it wasn’t about deception, rather, it was intended the ease the visual flow of the piece.

But we are now in an age of digital editing. Our editors and crews have far better, more elegant, ways of cutting material. Our viewers are well versed in ‘editing’ material – many do it for internet uploads, others for their wedding videos. So we can afford to be much more explicit about an edit between two pieces of an interview.

Similarly, for many years TV news producers have asked an interviewee to do a ‘set up’ shot, to allow the reporter to show pictures of that guest in the lead-up to a clip of them. Often, this has involved a contrived shot of someone pretending to be on the phone in their office, or walking up some stairs. This also feels old fashioned and misleading, so it has gone.

The third thing that we have decided to live without is the ‘staged question’, where (because we have only used a single camera to shoot an interview) we re-ask the reporter question afterwards (usually to an empty chair because the guest has gone). This is not ‘real’ so it has gone.

Of course, there’s a big philosophical debate to be had around what is, and is not, real in television more generally. Big live interviews are done with two cameras, so the reactions of the interviewee and presenter are for real. But there are many grey areas.

The very fact that a camera person is filming something can sometimes lead to it feeling contrived. But we are not talking about a revolution here. It’s about modernity as much as honesty.

I’m happy that we are leading the way in banishing those rather hackneyed, misleading techniques, consigning them to the TV news archives.

Written by Sky News, August 31, 2007


You know very well that there are greater issues than whether or not a shot is contrived. The weight given to particular aspects of a news story. The selection of guests. Your news anchor's reaction to those guests "opinions"
It really doesn't matter what technology or techniques you've adopted. What matters is the human element, the appearance of bias, the hint of scaremongering. the lack of objectivity.

If you are presenting something as fact, then Keep it Real.
Digital electronics and high power computers have revolutionised many areas of our lives especially television. I can remember my first television; the size of a telephone box and an eight inch screen that showed fuzzy black and white images for a couple of hours a day!! Haven't times changed?

I'm all for honesty and integrity, but I'm not convinced that the Great British Public felt betrayed by the use of the 'noddy'. As an editorial method of moving from shot to shot, it worked - and it didn't/doesn't exactly try to be something it isn't.

True, ordinary viewers are becoming more familiar with editing techniques: but this includes the notion, for example, of 'transitions' in PowerPoint - a visual trick that gets you from slide to slide. If anything, I'd have expected the viewers to start trying advanced methods like 'the noddy' on their home movies. And they'd probably have felt dead proud of themselves.

We're in danger of getting this all out of proportion. If we want to develop public confidence in news broadcasting, how about banning the ridiculous 'I'm live outside an empty office block' two-ways instead?

In all the circumstances whilst I for one have never lost faith or trust in http://www.sky.com/news I am confident that the public at large accept the fact that in the olden days, such tricks of the trade were utilised in order to ensure a seamless flow of information.
Whilst editorial integrity remains the objective and goals of those whom so wish to been viewed as an honest medium, many a broadcaster such as BBC, ITV & C4 have not only betrayed the trust of its young and upcoming audience, but have been allowed to do so whilst regulators water down the after effects in order to avoid further adverse publicity.
The reality of life today is that not only have such tricks been used by broadcasters, but by those whom society as a whole entrust to ensure that in such circumstances impartial justice is delivered.
Whilst TV has taken steps to clear up its act, I just hope that our law lords take a closer look inside their sets and eradicate political law.
So “Luther Vandros-Give Me The Reason” !

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