BBC News Fix

  • BBC News Presenter Count 2016: January – June: Victoria Derbyshire

    Victoria Derbyshire is amazing. The person, that is. Ever since she joined BBC Radio 5 live, her journalism has been consistently exemplary. She is a stellar BBC female journalist, joining the once solo rank held by Lyse Doucet. Here we have a strong, independent, head-on interviewer and presenter whose values are truly relevant to what this country wants in testing times: a voice who takes no prisoners, someone who is grappling with authority figures and regular people and mining the very core of what they are trying to say. Derbyshire could give deaf Humphrys a run for his money any day on an interview-formatted University Challenge, a dream television show I still haven’t worked out the rules for. Yes, Scudamore’s life reveals are back, in the form of his television dreams. More on that in today’s later entries.

    The thing is, I just don’t like Victoria’s show televised. Her TV show is the BBC owning up to not having anything exciting to offer once the Breakfast sofa packs up for the day on BBC One. It was a daring move, to shake up a whole radio station schedule and say, in honest code: “We are moving a presenter to encounter the problems we are encountering with Sky News. Our format, which works, is, because we’re the BBC, clearly not working, and Victoria is going to do her radio stuff on TV.” Sadly, the show never really got off the ground at all, not after the billing of “breaking news, exclusive interviews, debates and some lovely, lovely films we hope you’ll want to share on social media.” Not on that cringy day one where it looked like a cross between Matthew Wight and Jeremy Kyle. It never got off the ground during or after the election. And it was never going to when Victoria got cancer.

    The show’s hope is – through its mixture of “breaking news, exclusive interviews and debates” – you’ll switch off Jeremy Kyle, whose parade of human cruelty and unhappiness is the main competition from ITV in this time slot. And, on a year’s worth of evidence, “Victoria Derbyshire” is aiming, like Kyle, to present extremities of human experience, although with sympathy rather than prurience: a folk-show rather than a freak-show. I don’t know, I think me reviewing the show on here, against a tirade of quite passionate viewers who are certainly engaged with the programme, may be a sensitive battle to fight. It’s not even what I’m meant to be doing in reviewing the Count – note the word Count, the statistics our warrior Jack Axford must have spent forever conjuring. And it’s only the halfway mark for the year.

    In short, before I review the very small tally Derbyshire’s show has, presenter wise, I just want to make clear that, for me, this show has been consistently bland and average if we are comparing it to what it was billed: earth-shattering, shakey morning television. The BBC News Channel’s choice to simulcast it every day is clearly compromised by recent events like the Nice attacks, making the original stories that made Derbyshire’s radio show such a worthy listen secondary to anyone’s agenda of concern for news. I’m glad Victoria has won her battle with cancer. I’m in sheer awe of her willing to share the journey with us. I watched it. It made for compelling, emotional viewing. But I would gladly see the things return to the way they were. Normal rolling news in the morning where Derbyshire could arguably shine behind a desk like Joanna Gosling or Annita McVeigh. If not, Derbyshire on the radio and, yes, BBC2 showing morning, educational shows for those kids who have sick days. And whatever happened to Top Cat in the summers?! Massive sigh from this critic as I peek over my glasses to read the Count. Boom.

    (1) Victoria Derbyshire – 61

    (2) Joanna Gosling – 48

    (3) Norman Smith – 5

    (4) Jane Hill –1

    (5) Rebecca Jones – 1

    Here’s an extra piece of news: Gosling nearly tied with Derbyshire in the first quarter of the year. Either way, I’ve been impressed by how quickly Gosling acquitted herself with anchoring the show and, even this week, she continues to stun. Gosling, having sat behind a news desk with Ben Brown for so many years, is refreshing in solo form. Here’s to the graduation of a solo journalist who I doubted a decade ago. From here on, Derbyshire will most likely tot her count up over the 100 mark by the end of the year. Even on her radio show she took good doses of holiday leave, so it’ll be interesting to see whether that affects her for the next couple of years. And yes, I haven’t mentioned the cancer. I don’t want to. I’m glad Victoria is back presenting as the host of a show that has always had a proud banner to fly. And hey, this is a show which could have been deputised by Julian Worricker. Nope, this is the time of Norman Smith. He’s anchored some fascinating mornings and whether that is coincidental scheduling is up for debate. David Bowie’s death… it couldn’t have been reported or broke by anyone other than Norman Smith. That, my friends, is a bold claim I’m standing by.

    Tom’s tip for the future: More Jane Hill. I think she’s only been used on location this year, and I always enjoy her actually fronting the show in the studio. Let us not forget Hill fronted Madeline McCann’s disappearance in 2007, and she’s been impressive at Westminster these last few weeks. While Rebecca Jones only makes a mark newsreading while a debate occurred on Victoria’s show, it would be an interesting watch for her to present the gig, too, and why not an old guard presence like Julia Somerville? I know that would make our lovely new guy, Philip Martin, happy. Finally, while I considered suggesting Naga Munchetty, I think her Sunday Live gig is perhaps an overdose of broadcasting for her as much as I adore watching the Breakfast host. On that revealing note.

    Tom Scudamore,

    BNF’s lover boy/harshest critic


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