Muted outrage has followed reports this week that the Australian accent is under attack on TV because Ten’s US overlords CBS have ordered voice training to make newsreaders sound more “grandiose”.
Claims that Ten’s stable including Sandra Sully and Lisa Wilkinson are being “forced” to get a vocal makeover sparked concern on mainstream and social media.
“I love American cultural imperialism,” one Twitter user said. Asked another, “Nasal speak?”
People, stand down. Flying in the face of concerns, experts told The New Daily it’s a bonza idea for our local stars to freshen their technique.
“Given the lack of mentoring in the industry, feedback in the form of voice coaching can sometimes be a gift,” said a former TV reporter who spent nearly two decades on the small screen.
But Ten might want to dial back the grandiosity rather than beef it up.
“A small handful of their talent have this concocted ‘I’m a newsreader’ voice with weird inflections,” the TV insider said.
“It makes no sense in the suburbs. And newsreaders should remember, there will only ever be one Jana Wendt.”
Like Ten, other networks should also consider some refresher courses for their stars, communications coach Marcus West told The New Daily.
“I wouldn’t say there are too many newsreaders in Australia who are really relaxed in their interactions with other presenters,” he said.
Among the “wooden” offenders? Nine’s Melbourne newsreader Peter Hitchener and his Sydney offsider Peter Overton, who have a “totally exaggerated and silly” style.
“Neither of them has the slightest iota of spontaneity,” said Mr West, whose past and present clients include on-air staff from Nine, Seven, ABC News and Fox Sports.
“I don’t think either of them could really handle a live rolling broadcast, and the way Overton will keep saying ‘thank you’ to his colleagues when it’s their fricking job is ridiculous.
“You should ask yourself, ‘If I spoke like this in a normal social situation, would people think I was odd?’ If you come back with the answer yes, pull back on the style.”
Among others who would benefit from more training: sports stars who want an instant media career.
“They’re massively out of their depth and nobody tells them what to do. They have a great deal of difficulty saying anything other than bland, beige, meaningless truisms,” Mr West said.
Sydney star Sully, the queen of the crisp vowel, is totally down with voice work, telling the Daily Telegraph, “I’ve done that on and off from day dot”.
Ten told The New Daily that the vocal coaching is nothing new, although it said the report this year’s order came from CBS is “incorrect”.
Historically, “We do annual voice coaching with a broad range of staff including journalists and presenters,” a network spokesperson said.
“So far, we have conducted sessions around the country – apart from Sydney – and not one person has raised a concern.”
Doing TV is harder than it looks, said Mr West: “The ultimate goal is to come across in natural fashion, so it’s funny how people are beginning to deliver their message in an unusual style and less truthful way.”
“Sometimes people go too heavy on the authority but if you’re too conversational you end up sounding hokey and down-home. You have to give that veneer of objectivity, careful balance.”
Seven’s Melbourne meteorologist Jane Bunn is one high-profile broadcaster who divides opinion over her delivery.
The former TV reporter’s tip for fledgling broadcasters is to watch ABC TV’s Leigh Sales or Sarah Ferguson.
“I can’t imagine them trying to sound like [The Simpsons] ‘Troy McClure’ while grilling world leaders. They read the autocue or a script like it doesn’t exist.”