Inside Story: Now back to you, Tetsuya
News anchors are the faces of national television like no other - as the interest in Katie Couric's elevation at CBS makes clear. So who are the global stars of the autocue?
Monday 18 September 2006
1. CHINA: LI ZIMENG, 28
Programme: News Relay,
China Central Television (CCTV)
Audience: 160 million
Li Zimeng caused a sensation when she and Kang Hui made their debut on China's state-run broadcaster CCTV in June on the channel's half-hour evening news broadcast. Young, attractive and wearing sharp suits, Li and Kang - he is 35 - had a conversational and cheerful style in sharp contrast to the more serious expressions of CCTV's rotating group of six other newscasters. Li and Kang were the first new faces in more than 10 years and they came unannounced, but have made a big splash - the Beijing Youth Daily said that Li was "the most modern, the most fashionable, and the most beautiful" anchor on CCTV. They represent a changing approach to how the Chinese government offers up propaganda - the details may be tightly controlled, but the message can be delivered in an attractive way. First broadcast in 1978 and having had little changed in terms of format since then, News Relay covers the most important daily news of the state and events involving state leaders, in order of the officials' rank in the party hierarchy. It can be a useful way for analysts to see who is in and who is out of favour within the Communist Party.
2. IRELAND: SHARON NI BHEOLAIN, '30s'
Programme: RTE News: Six One on RTE One
RTE One is the primary channel of the Irish state broadcasting authority, and the audience for Six One, as it is commonly known, is well ahead of that for other stations in an increasingly competitive broadcasting scene where Sky and others are active. Ms Ni Bheolain - co-anchor with Bryan Dobson - previously worked as a news reporter and presenter on other RTE programmes. A fluent Irish speaker, she presented a 20-part series which taught viewers Irish, Turas Teanga. Now in her thirties, she has worked for several Irish-language publications. A graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, she took over the Six One post just six weeks ago after occasional spells on the programme. One of a new wave of more glamorous Irish TV presenters, she is known as an animal welfare campaigner who is particularly passionate about dogs. Dobson has been one of RTE's main news anchors for the past 15 years. Aged 46, he was born in Dublin and was the station's business correspondent. He previously worked with BBC Northern Ireland in Belfast.
3. ITALY: EMILIO FEDE, 75
Programme: TG4 ("Telegiornale 4"), Rete 4
Emilio Fede is notorious as the most partisan newsreader in the history of Italian television, littering his regular half-hour programme with imprecations against communists and with dewy-eyed praise for his ultimate boss, Silvio Berlusconi, whose Mediaset company owns Rete 4. In the run-up to April's general election Rete 4 received several large fines for its biased news reporting, but Mr Fede, whose audience is predominantly female and middle-aged to elderly, was undeterred. He often has a studio audience for the programme, and makes no bones about his political inclinations. "I love Berlusconi, he is like a brother," he says. Once when Berlusconi paid the studio a visit, he noticed the miserable surroundings; "Next day," Fede says, "eight gardeners arrived and created this wonderful little oasis for me. This is typical of Berlusconi. He is so generous. He isn't supercilious and miserable like some of his adversaries." Fede is appreciated by his fans not only for his political leanings but for his friendly, vivid body language, the way he personalises the news, and his permanent, often mischievous smile. Reports that Berlusconi has kept him a space in his private mausoleum are, he insists, "a joke".
4. UNITED STATES: KATIE COURIC, 49
Programme: CBS Evening News, CBS
Audience size: average 7.2 m; 13m for Couric's debut two weeks ago
Couric is the genial, much-fetishised morning host brought in to give a new lease of life toCBS Evening News, the flagship programme which has slumped to last place among network news shows - which are a format in steep decline because of competition from cable and the internet. Although she worked briefly as a Pentagon correspondent and covered the Gulf War, Couric is hardly a byword for hard news - her greatest claim to fame is to have undergone an on-camera colonoscopy to publicise cancer prevention. (Her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer in 1998.) For the past six months, CBS has been trailing her move from NBC's Today show, which she co-hosted for 15 years. In her first week, she has mixed up the usual format to give the news a more lifestyle-oriented feel. One critic has described her, accurately, as "America's cutie-pie" - which might explain why the CBS camera crews love her legs and her smile as much as what comes out of her mouth.
5. INDIA: RAJDEEP SARDESAI, 41
Programme: CNN-IBN, India Tonight
Rajdeep Sardesai got so big he started his own channel. As well as anchoring the nightly news, he takes over the anchor's chair for major stories - and is pretty much the biggest name in Indian television news. He made his name with his reports on the 2002 Gujarat massacres for the private NDTV 24-hour news channel, and as anchor of its premier political programme, The Big Fight - then quit the channel to start up a rival. He got the backing of CNN for a new joint venture, CNN-IBN. He is popular for his take-no-prisoners style, but his on-screen histrionics aren't to everybody's taste. After Varanasi was bombed this year, he kept announcing, "The important thing is not to panic," although India showed no sign of doing so.
6. SOUTH AFRICA: LERATO MBELE, 29
Programme: News at 10, SABC3 (South African Broadcasting Corporation 3). Audience: 300,000-plus.
On a continent where most broadcasting stations are state-owned and run like information departments of ruling political parties, good professional news anchors are rare. But Ms Mbele, a trained economist, can be counted among those very few. Against all odds at the state-owned SABC, which like many other African state broadcasters generally parrots the official line, Ms Mbele is a breath of fresh air. Her News at 10 programme is an in-depth analysis of the day's major news events. The show seeks to advance stories earlier published on the main 7pm bulletin by bringing relevant people for analysis of issues. Captains of industry, politicians, activists and a variety of people brought into the studio for Ms Mbele's show all have one thing in common: they leave the studio sweating. That's down to her engaging yet assertive questioning, an approach that has earned her the accolade of "the nation's influential informer". A holder of a Master's degree in Development Studies from the University of London and a Political Science degree from the University of Cape Town, Ms Mbele has a grasp of current affairs that distinguishes her from the ordinary news reader.
8. JAPAN: TETSUYA CHIKUSHI, 71
Programme: News 23, TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System)
Chikushi was headhunted at the tail-end of his career in newspaper and magazine publishing to anchor News 23 in 1989. An opinionated, old-school liberal of the type they no longer make in Japan, Chikushi was clearly seen as an antidote to the sharp-tongued competition from Hiroshi Kume of TV Asahi's News Station, who revolutionised news programming in Japan by abandoning its bland, polite presentational style. (News Station was replaced in 2004 after Kume retired). Although News 23 initially struggled against its brash rival, the show has since become the most popular late-night news magazine in Japan and Chikushi recently passed the milestone of 4,000 broadcasts. Chikushi, who models himself on US greats Ed Murrow and Walter Cronkite, has interviewed everyone from former US President Bill Clinton and Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to actress Jodie Foster. Now well past retirement age, Chikushi says he often thinks of stepping down but in a country drifting steadily to the right, he clearly feels that there is nobody to replace him. He is a champion of left-wing causes and the author of several books.
7. AUSTRALIA: LEE LIN CHIN, "late 50s" ("Old enough to drink," is all she'll say)
Programme: SBS World News, SBS (Special Broadcasting Service)
Lee Lin Chin, who reads the weekend news on SBS, which is a national broadcasting service for ethnic-minority Australians, was born in Indonesia and grew up in Singapore, where she began her broadcasting career in 1968. As well as her news-reading job, Lee Lin - who is famous for her flamboyant hairstyles and eclectic outfits - also presents a weekly fashion programme on SBS, called Fashionista. A self-confessed fashion victim, she says: "To evoke the timeless view of all things, the Yin and Yang, you can't have the horse without the carriage." She is equally passionate about literature, and was spotted in the front row at Australian Fashion Week a couple of years ago, engrossed in a book. Lee Lin migrated to Australia in 1980 and worked at SBS, translating Chinese-language films. She then moved to the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), and worked in regional radio in New South Wales and in Darwin. She rejoined SBS in 1988 and has been part of the World News team since then. Lee Lin speaks Cantonese, Mandarin and Fukien, and is typical of contemporary Australia, where one in four people was born overseas.
9. RUSSIA: EKATERINA ANDREEVA, 44
Programme: Vremya ("Time"),
Said to be one of President Vladimir Putin's favourite news anchors, Ms Andreeva is the glamorous mouthpiece of Kremlin Inc. Her flagship news programme - Vremya (Time) - runs at 9pm every weekday evening on state-controlled Channel One and presents the world news through Kremlin eyes. It is one of the most influential TV news programmes in Russia and Andreeva's crisp Muscovite pronunciation and wholesome model looks have been familiar to tens of millions of Russians for the past decade. On air since 1995, she has fronted every significant Russian news story in recent memory: the Moscow theatre siege, the Beslan school siege, the rise of Putin, the trial of oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and a string of velvet revolutions across the former Soviet Union. She has won numerous industry awards and prides herself on being able to remain composed on air when breaking the bleakest of news. A history graduate of Moscow's prestigious state university, she is married with one daughter. She is well known for her love of fast cars (she drives a Jaguar) and her long sessions in the gym. More than just a newsreader, she has become THE face of news in Russia and a celebrity and a sex symbol in her own right.
10. FRANCE: PATRICK POIVRE D'ARVOR, 58 Programme: Journal de 20hrs, TF1
French TV news has been dominated for almost 20 years by the seductive lips and faded good looks of Patrick Poivre d'Arvor. On several occasions during those two decades, M Poivre d'Arvor has made the news rather than presented it. Two of the incidents - faking an interview with Fidel Castro in 1991, and accepting presents in kind from a politically-motivated business figure in 1995 - would have severed the cable of a news anchor in any other democratic country. In France, PPDA, as he is known, has built his show into the most watched of its kind in Europe. There are, in fact, not one PPDAs but two. The nightly satirical show, Les Guignols, on Canal Plus, is presented by a PPDA puppet, who is tougher on his political interviewees than the human version. This summer, PPDA was replaced temporarily by Harry Roselmack, the first black prime-time newscaster on a major French channel. Harry got rave reviews - much to PPDA's private jealousy, it was reported. Patrick d'Arvor has nothing to fear. He is an institution in a country which cherishes its institutions.
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