And here is the news, read by a man with a calm, measured, statesmanlik e voice

Related Topics

No 37 in a series: The woman who auditions voices for BBC Radio.

"IF YOU can't remember what a voice sounds like, that probably means I've chosen the right voice for the airwaves."

The speaker (and a very nice voice it is too) is Eleanora Grebe, whose job it is to make sure that the voice fits the role on BBC radio. Does that mean that some voices would be no good for some roles?

"Of course. A man who sounds good reading the news would sound awful interviewing Gordon Brown, and vice versa. Think of all the programmes like PM and The World at One and Today, where the newsreaders are unhurried, and measured, and calmly statesmanlike, with slightly deep voices. Then think of the presenters, who are all slightly urgent, as if they thought that what they were saying was burning to be said, and are dying to get on with it. You could never have Brian Perkins interviewing anyone, as his questions would sound too complete to need an answer. By the same token you can't imagine John Humphrys reading the news. I don't think you'd really trust him. Oddly enough, people like Brian Perkins are also ideal when reading out very silly news cuttings on The News Quiz, as their measured, grave tones make the idiocy sound even more funny.

"Actually, the news is probably easier to read than the weather forecast, because the weather readers have to grasp your attenton much more. If your attention wavers from the news, and you miss the item about Jonathan Aitken or relaxation on the beef ban, then there's no harm done, because it was going to be boring anyway. But if you miss the forecast for your corner of the UK, you've missed out something vital to your life. So the weather men have to be crystal clear."

Would she call Ian McAskill clear? Some people can't make out a word he's saying.

"It's very important to have regional accents on the weather," says Eleanora Grebe, avoiding the question, "and it's also important to have a weather forecaster that Rory Bremner can imitate. Without McAskill, who could he do on the weather front?"

There seems to be a preponderance of Scottish accents when it comes to the regions. Is this to satisfy the touchy Scots ?

"Not really," says Eleanora Grebe. "In fact the Welsh are touchier than the Scots, and we should have more Welsh accents, but most of the men we employ who are proud of being Welsh, like John Humphrys, have unfortunately lost their Welsh accents. We have seriously considered trying to train him to get it back, but it's probably too late.

"One way in which we have contrived to placate the Scots is to place Scotland first in the weather forecast on Radio 4, so the Scots think they are getting preferential treatment. What they don't realise - and I'd rather you didn't mention this - is that first in the weather forecast is the worst place you can get, because nobody ever listens to the first bit of a forecast, on the grounds that they assume their home area will never be dealt with first."

What sort of voice is used for really weighty announcements? I mean, when war starts or when, God save us, the Queen Mother dies ?

"Oh, we have already sorted out who is going to announce the Queen Mum's death. In fact - and I'd rather you didn't mention this - it has already been recorded. All the announcements and the tributes are ready to roll.In fact, I am told that Jeremy Paxman - who, by the by, would be the worst person possible to announce the Queen Mum's death, because he would sound as if he were trying not to laugh - I am told that Jeremy Paxman has already recorded a special Newsnight item on her death, asking questions like `If you knew her death was on the cards, why wasn't something done about it and will heads roll?!?' "

Finally, after the Welsh and Scots, what about Irish voices? What is the BBC's current policy on Irish voices? Why was Gerry Anderson given the boot when he had such a nice voice? Is Sean Rafferty being inserted into Radio 3 to rival Henry Kelly's success on Classic FM ? Whither Terry Wogan? Whence Frank Delaney ? Is BBC radio being plastered with Irish accents the way pubs are turned into Irish theme pubs? What IS the BBC's policy?

"I'll tell you. Our policy is to encourage the Irish voice in all areas but one. We will never let an Irishman read the news."

Why not ?

"Because he would sound like EITHER Ian Paisley OR Gerry Adams .Think about it."

I do think about it. And it makes sense.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam