Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Live Television Is Becoming a Very Big Deal Indeed; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Live Television Is Becoming a Very Big Deal Indeed; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Gutteridge

CHANNEL 4's daytime gameshow Deal or No Deal is now broadcasting live for the first time in its history. As a result, it's audience has increased substantially. I'm not surprised: viewers can really sense the tension and peril of live television. So much of what we watch these days is manufactured, edited and homogenised. From reality shows to talent competitions, producers do their best to artificially inject tension and jeopardy into the safely pre-recorded mix, but it's rarely convincing. There's something about the security of recording that saps suspense, and I'm sure our relentlessly vacuous daytime output really benefited from the thrill of potential disaster. Noel Edmonds, probably the best live entertainment presenter Britain has ever had, is the ideal host for the experiment.

As a producer, nothing quite matches the thrill of live TV. For the first dozen years of my career, I was a studio director, sitting in a darkened control room facing banks of monitors, calling the shots and trying to hold it all together. All too often the fragile bubble burst and the show descended into chaos.

That embarrassing episode of Panorama, where David Dimbleby sits alone in front of a solitary camera with nothing to say for 11 minutes because the film has broken down? That was me at the end of the telephone helpfully telling him to "just keep talking".

That live Nationwide episode when a lady judge keeled over in a dying faint and the presenter just stepped over her recumbent body? I was directing that night, too. Grace Jones hitting Russell Harty? It was my voice in his earpiece, foolishly telling him to ignore her.

Yet the more things go wrong, the more audiences seems to enjoy it. It makes the viewing experience somehow more real and the viewers more connected.

Nowadays viewers can turn even pre-recorded programmes into live viewing experiences by texting or tweeting their friends with comments about the content. I reckon that around 80% of all young people use phones or iPads while they are watching television, often to communicate with each other about what they're watching. …

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