BBC Scotland Announcers
How it all started - by a Scottish viewer
BBC Scotland started to use their own continuity announcers for all evening and weekend afternoon junctions around 1977. Until then, they only covered opt-outs, so the London announcer was heard most of the time in Scotland; the Scottish announcer wasn't even heard before 'Reporting Scotland'! That's because in those days the early evening Regional News magazines began with a 'throw' from the 'Nationwide' programme.
The original BBC One Scotland team in the late-1970s included James O'Hara, Bob Christie and Ian Purdon. More on James and Bob later. Ian Purdon went on to work for BBC Radio 2 and the BBC World Service. From time to time, radio announcers were also heard, including Ken Bruce who has been one of BBC Radio 2's top stars since the mid-1980s.
At first, BBC Scotland announcers were known to only a devout core of enthusiasts, just like their London counterparts. But in 1979 their profile was raised considerably when BBC One Scotland began to broadcast a lunchtime news bulletin at 1240, just before the Network 'Midday News' at 1245.
The 'Reporting Scotland' presenters weren't available for the lunchtime summary, so it fell upon the announcers to do the necessary. With little by way of film or graphics, the announcer would usually be on screen almost continuously during the bulletin. BBC Scotland never drew attention to the fact that continuity staff were reading the news. And the news reader never made the presentation announcement before their own appearance.
For most of the 1980s, the continuity team in Glasgow remained remarkably stable, a personnel officer's dream. The team also included Mark Stephen, Alma Cadzow and Jane Copland. Mark is still a presenter on BBC Radio Scotland while Jane later went on to announce for Channel 4; her voice can now be heard on the menu options on Orange mobile phones! There was also one announcer who was heard but never seen: Robert Logan was also a Conservative councillor so clearly couldn't read the news as it could call the BBC's impartiality into question. Robert, who also ran the TV Presentation department, rarely - if ever - gave his name at closedown either.
In 1985, the announcing team took a big step into the limelight. BBC Scotland finally joined Wales, Northern Ireland and most of the English regions and started to show a news summary just before Children's TV at around 1553. A few weeks later, a regional news summary at 2125 was introduced.
By now, the announcing team had become reasonably well known to the public. Unlike their ITV counterparts, whose styles varied considerably and who were often promoted by the stations as personalities, BBC Scotland's announcers were never meant to be stars; they were just members of BBC staff who happened to appear on screen as part of their duties. Sometimes an announcer would read the news; on other shifts they would have to vision-mix the bulletin, as all the summaries were controlled from the master mixing desk in the announcer's booth.
Inevitably though, viewers started to spot their little idiosyncrasies. Mark Stephen often came perilously close to sending up programmes with his good-natured humour. Links such as this one, which has stuck in my mind, became familiar to viewers. "Peter Cushing stars in our late night horror film in 50 minutes. First on BBC One Scotland, Dougie Donnelly rises from the grave with today's football action in 'Sportscene'."
Alma Cadzow, who was a Network announcer in the 1970s, often wore dangly earrings when she read the news and had a style which can best be described as homely. Once Alma had to try to hold back her tears after a documentary on animal cruelty. The public knew well who the disembodied voice they were hearing belonged to and some Scottish newspapers picked up on the story.
Gillean Macdougall was the last regular announcer to join the team while they still read the news. She's also the only survivor from this classic era.
In October 1988, on the same night as the 'Nine O'Clock News' returned to a single presenter format, newsroom staff started to read the news summaries but Presentation standards remained high. James O'Hara left around this time but was replaced by none other than Charles Nove. The Network announcer and 'Come Dancing' commentator had decided to return to Glasgow for a period.
Gradually familiar voices disappeared as people moved on in their careers, and some newer voices with styles which would previously have been deemed unacceptable came on the air. The only way to find out a new announcer's name was to stay up until closedown, though some also read the news on BBC Radio Scotland.
As the nineties went on, the duty announcer was required to say less as programme promotion was increasingly carried out by means of lavishly produced trailers. And since BBC News 24 began in 1997, the announcer hasn't had the chance to give their name or bid viewers goodnight.
Bob Christie retired in 2000 after more than a quarter of a century's service to the BBC. During his time, the job changed enormously. The announcer retains technical responsibility for the transmission but probably gets to say fewer words than ever before. All news bulletins are now handled by either a full gallery team or the duty journalist with a simple vision-mixing box.
But just to show that all that goes around comes around, one of the current announcers - Robin Matheson - also reads the 'Reporting Scotland' summaries in addition to his duties in the broom cupboard.