JOHN EDMUNDS tells you: What it is like to be A TELEVISION ANNOUNCER


How does an ABC announcer cope with the fans, the long hours and… toothache?

WHICH occupation in television is the most sought after?

Most TV hopefuls want to be an ANNOUNCER.

Front page of this day's Illustrated Chronicle
From the Illustrated Chronicle for 23 November 1957

What is it that makes an announcer’s job look so glamorous. A job which means 100 per cent concentration for 12 hours non-stop each day? Perhaps it’s because the announcer must be a friendly man, acceptable in every one of over two million households.

The announcer is the permanent link between home and studio. Programmes and performers may change by the hour, but the announcer is present the whole time, making anything up to 40 or more appearances every day. These frequent appearances make a firm impact on the mind of the viewer.

The announcer becomes easily recognisable in the the street, on the bus, or in the pub, and he cannot walk across the road without being spotted. Heads will turn and he will overhear the remarks – “Ooh, look, that’s John Edmunds. You know, the announcer on the telly.”

Perhaps it is that little bit of egoism present in every human being that tempts young people to hanker after the announcer’s job.

“For, believe me, life ceases to become normal once you are an announcer,” says John. Sometimes, he has to slip away from a side door in the studio to escape the attentions of fans, some of whom can be quite fanatical, at times.

Not for him the hotel rooms in the city centre – he would be an obvious target for the fans on each week end lie in wait inside Birmingham hotels, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourites and to get their autographs. John spends his week-ends in very homely and comfortable digs in Erdington, with “the most charming landlady imaginable.”

You see, John is a friendly and sociable chap who likes to meet people away from the glare of the studio lights. He is a homely type – and that is one of the most essential qualities of an announcer. If the station announcer is not a friendly visitor to the viewers’ home, then the station is switched off.

What other qualifications? A pleasant voice? Naturally – but not necessarily a donnish voice, and certainly not an affected one. It must be a voice acceptable to the Black Country, to Shropshire, to the happy, homely Lancastrian and the shrewd and dour Yorkshireman.

What language qualifications are desirable? Well, French is most useful (John Edmunds was a French master before joining ABC Television); Italian is handy, and so is German. If you know a little Greek, Polish, Swahili or Urdu, so much the better.

John Edmunds behind the announcer's desk

Does acting experience help? Definitely. Although the announcer must, at all times be of a friendly and happy disposition, there are occasions where acting ability can help him. John Edmunds was recently suffering from extremely painful tooth abcess [sic]. All of the dentists were closed and he faced a ten-hour stint of duty on Sunday. Make-up department, with their pots of magic creams, smoothed out the ‘pain lines’ in his wrinkled forehead, softened down the swelling lump on his face, and brought some colour to his ashen cheeks, but only his acting ability could produce the smiling, happy, trouble free announcer that Sunday.

The announcer must be prepared to speak ad lib at a moment’s notice. There may be a few minutes – or just a few seconds – in hand before the next programme comes on. He must be prepared to speak intelligently and unharried without a script, to millions of viewers, making making up his words as he goes along. His announcement must finish dead on the second, and it must be conclusive.

He cannot break off in the middle of a sentence because the merciless studio clock has beaten him to it. All this he must assess as he goes along – and that’s not easy, particularly when the controller has called him up on the studio ‘talk back’ and told him that he has ‘one minute thirteen seconds to fill, starting in five seconds time!’


Butterflies In The Stomach

What is it like to sit in the announcer’s chair? Very, very lonely. At the other end of that camera facing him are millions of viewers – his friends, but in the studio he is all alone with nobody at his side, not even a cameraman, for the camera is operated by remote control in the adjoining control room.

Once he embarks on his announcements, he is out on his own, speaking in a small studio, with a cluster of monitor sets, clock, cue lights, microphones and cameras just three feet away from him and facing into the glare of the studio lights. And he knows that seven million people are listening, he hopes, to his every word.

“Butterflies?” says John, “my stomach breeds them at the beginning of each working day. But as you go through that day, hour by hour, there comes a time soon when those butterflies have settled down to sleep, and you become completely relaxed. Up to this point you have been acting with all the ability at your command, to appear relaxed, comfortable and easy.”

So there is is. Our announcer must be pleasant looking and have a pleasant speaking voice. He must have a friendly approach to the job. He must be a linguist, and preferably have had acting experience. Oh, and he must be able to control breeding butterflies.


John Edmunds' view from the announcer's desk

The time – 15.18.09, or nine seconds past eighteen minutes past three. John Edmunds prepares to read an announcement, coming up in 12 seconds time. On the left is the studio monitor which he can switch on to see the actual programme, or himself as the camera sees him. On the front of his desk are his cue lights, red on the left, green on the right. The red light flashing means stand by, and “steady green” means go ahead. The studio clock, known unpopularly [sic] as “That Thing” is surmounted by the small, but all important Announcer’s Camera, which can be moved up and down or sideways by remote control from the COntrol Room, the windows of which can be seen in this picture. On the right of his desk by the arm of his chair can be seen the switch controls for the picture monitor and his microphone, which he switches on and off himself. All this equipment is within three feet of him as he makes his announcements.



Transdiffusion’s Russ J Graham writes: The two images from the Illustrated Chronicle were taken on a weekday. That’s the ATV curtain backdrop behind Edmunds in the first photograph (the ABC continuity set is behind the curtain). On his right, our left, can be seen the backdrop and jukebox used in ATV’s The Jack Jackson Show, which went out live from the same Alpha Television presentation studio. Indeed, although it is very hard to tell, it looks more like a ATV logo on the piece of paper he’s holding in the second photo than an ABC shield – although it could be the strange amalgamated logo of ATV and ABC used by Alpha.

About the author

The Illustrated Chronicle (later the Leicester Chronicle) was first published in 1924, although there were predecessor newspapers with a similar name. It was a morning newspaper, with the evening Leicester Mercury coming from the same publisher. It closed in 1979, leaving the Mercury as the city's daily paper.

3 thoughts on “JOHN EDMUNDS tells you: What it is like to be A TELEVISION ANNOUNCER

  1. During the late 70’s, a grey haired John Edmunds used to sometimes present the main news on BBC1 as good as he ever was when he was an ABC continuity announcer.

  2. John Edmunds read the news stylishly on BBC TV between 1967 and 1973, as a main newsreader and sometimes more occasionally. He combined this with varied duties at the BBC on television and radio. He returned briefly to present news programmes during the 1974 October General Election Campaign and popped up fleetingly again to read the news in 1979. During an interval from his university department duties in Wales, he again returned as a regular newsreader for the BBC between Autumn 1980 until June 1981, delighting his many fans, I’m sure. Not long after, to many, BBC News presentation changed forever as many of the trusted old guard of newsreaders were gradually ousted and, to some, news presentation lost cherished authority over time.

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