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American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom

Series:

Madeleine Liseblad

American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom provides  unprecedented insight into American news consultants’ role in reshaping British television news during the 1990s. In 1986, American research and news consulting company Frank N. Magid Associates began infiltrating the British market. Five years later, the company was consulting for an extensive list of British client stations in preparation for the 1991 Independent Television (ITV) franchise auction. Their efforts were controversial, prompting public outcry against the "Americanization" of British television news. Despite the hostile climate, Magid’s efforts were successful. Nine of their eleven client bidders emerged victorious from the franchise auction. This was only the beginning. Throughout the 1990s, Magid employees crisscrossed the country with research studies, business and marketing plans, and writing and storytelling seminars. At the time, this was the company’s largest venture into international television.

American consultants’ work abroad is important. They spread the U.S. model—the origin of today’s on-air style—and changed television news globally by working with indigenous media. Yet, despite their vast influence, limited research has been conducted on their international efforts, largely because of proprietary material. This book is based on unprecedented and unrestricted access to Magid’s archives. In addition, interviews with Magid staff and U.K. journalists allow for a comprehensive examination of the marketization of British television news, attending especially to how news became better tailored to the medium and audience; the key concepts that Magid advocated to be integrated into U.K. news; and the societal forces at play in this transformation.

American Consultants and the Marketization of Television News in the United Kingdom is a recommended read for anyone interested in journalism and television history, Americanization, media economics and sociology.

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5 Visibility and Likability: Changing Talent Roles

The “Cronkytization” and Evolution of the British News Presenter

Extract

The camera is a person that you’re communicating with. It’s not you playing a role and trying to sound like a news reporter, or sound like a news anchor. It’s about you being a trusted friend. That’s what we used to call it. You’re reaching through the camera, and the viewer sees you as a trusted friend telling them that story, not performing.

Carla Hargis, former performance coach, Frank N. Magid Associates. Interview with author.

Terrestrial television news in the United Kingdom underwent a clear, visible, and rather dramatic evolution in the 1990s. The focus on storytelling, graphics, and audience needs would reshape television news in the United Kingdom as would changes in the roles of on-air personnel. The news presenter role advanced in several different ways, becoming more closely aligned to the American news anchor model. The reporter’s role evolved as the position was accentuated within the newscast. Many stations added a weathercaster and a sportscaster. The newscasts began being produced around the notion of a large team of presenters and reporters. There was an evident effort to strengthen the roles of all on-air staff.

Initially, the newscaster as a distinct personality was unique to the United States, an inherently American television characteristic.1 What Americans refer to as a news anchor, the British call a news presenter, the person in the studio or on a set presenting the news, guiding the viewer through the newscast. In the United Kingdom, the news presenter was...

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