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Omah Howard

Meet the BBC Three TV announcers: 'People want to hear their mate'

Rosie Blunt
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Ever wondered who the voice inside your TV belongs to? The one telling you it's time for EastEnders or the News at Six? Well, their official title is the "continuity announcer".

There are 23 continuity announcers across the BBC TV channels - and 10 more have joined BBC Three as it prepares to relaunch on 1 February. The successful announcers beat a thousand applicants to the job and they'll be some of the youngest continuity announcers ever heard on the BBC.

Christie Reynolds is one of the final 10. She's from Liverpool and is 22 years old.

"It's so important for people to hear our voices and think: 'She sounds like me'," she says.

Omah Howard, 21, who's also joining the team, agrees: "People want to hear their mate rather than their granddad."

'The voice of the nation'

Continuity announcer is one of those roles we might take for granted - it blends into our TV watching, helping the scheduling of programmes flow so you don't even notice that awkward transition between Line of Duty and the News at Ten.

And the continuity announcer's job isn't just to tell us what's next on telly.

"We are the voice of the nation," says Jenni Crane, from Wales, who's been doing the continuity announcements on BBC One and Two for the past four years.

"You've got to think about things like: Is it cold outside? Am I introducing Bargain Hunt or Boris Johnson? It's really about being reactive and in the moment."

Christie Reynolds
"It's so important for people to hear our voices and think: 'She sounds like me'," says Christie

Back in the 1930s, the BBC's first continuity announcers were in vision, meaning you could see them on screen.

Nowadays, you just hear their voice accompanied by some pictures to tell us what's coming up next in the TV schedule.

For many years, the continuity announcers' style was very formal and they spoke in received pronunciation, also known as the Queen's English.

"I am working class, Northern and a gay woman. Growing up, I wouldn't hear people like me on the BBC," says Christie.

But things have changed.

"These days we're told to use whatever part of the country we're from," says Jenni. "I make the most of my Welshness."

The new BBC Three continuity announcers have a whole range of diverse accents.

"When I met the other announcers, it was really lovely to hear voices from every end of the country. I was quite surprised by how unique everybody was," says Matt Livingstone, another new continuity announcer who's 23 and from Newcastle.

Also joining the team is Carys Davies, who's originally from Caerphilly in Wales. She says her Welsh accent now gives her more opportunities rather than holding her back, but that hasn't always been the case.

Carys Davies/lydiagrayphotography
“We’re told to be ourselves as much as we can," says Carys

"Years ago, I applied for a job and was rejected even though I was perfect for it," she explains. "I found out later it was because of the way I sounded. They said I didn't sound polished enough."

But at BBC Three, she says: "We're told to be ourselves as much as we can. The idea is that we are the audience’s friend that they are watching telly with."

Richard Walker, head of media planning at the BBC, says it's vital the BBC showcases diversity in its voices.

"We are acutely aware that our viewers pay a licence fee and we represent everyone," he says. "That should absolutely be reflected in the voices that are on the BBC."

A day in the life of a continuity announcer

Jenni's day starts by looking ahead at what's planned.

"Then we write our little intros off the back of programmes, pointing ahead to whatever might be coming up in the evenings," she says.

On BBC One, where Jenni works, the announcements are live. As the clock ticks closer to the end of the programme, that's when the nerves set in, Jenni says.

Jenni Crane
Whether live or pre-recorded, Jenni says tone is the most important thing to get right

On BBC Three, the announcements will be pre-recorded. That's to give the new announcers space to craft the announcements and make them sound the best they possibly can, explains Richard.

"Going live on air is incredibly daunting - you can be speaking to literally millions of people live. With zero experience, that can be incredibly hard," he says.

Whether live or pre-recorded, Jenni says tone is the most important thing to get right.

"Am I off the back of Strictly? If so, let's get the party going. This is a Saturday night on BBC One," she says. "That'll be very different to the BBC News at Ten when there's been a new outbreak of COVID."

It's also vital to keep an eye on the clock. The announcement is "timed within an inch of its life," says Jenni.

A few seconds too early and you could be talking over that cliffhanger at the end of Peaky Blinders, seconds too late and you'll be battling with the theme tune for Antiques Roadshow.

A step on the ladder

Many of the BBC's continuity announcers have a background in acting or voice work.

But the new continuity announcers "are not trained - they don't sound like the BBC," says Richard.

He was on the lookout for authenticity rather than experience - although some of the new continuity announcers do have a bit of both.

Omah - pictured top - has presented a show on Kiss FM for the past two years.

"When I was in college, I didn't know what direction I wanted to take," says Omah. "It was hard because all my friends were going to university or doing apprenticeships, but I was the one rapping at the back of the classroom. The one who liked drama and music.

"A lot of the time in creative industries you don't have experience and you don't have anyone to give you the platform to express yourself or develop you."

That's why this opportunity is so huge for Christie, who's freshly graduated and doesn't have links to the industry.

"My dream is to do more acting work so I'm hoping this will be a step on the ladder to meet more people," she says.

Matt Livingstone
"When I met the other announcers, it was really lovely to hear voices from every end of the country. I was quite surprised by how unique everybody was," says Matt

The 10 new faces (or voices) are now working with experienced continuity announcers to perfect their scripting and reading, and to learn about the technical side of the job, like how the studios work.

"I looked at all of the buttons and all of the screens and found it so intimidating, but actually once we were doing it, it was fine," says Carys.

So, are the new voices of BBC Three nervous?

"It's the same feeling I get before I'm about to parachute out of a plane. The same feeling I get before my 21st birthday," says Omah. "Whenever I start to get that feeling - the butterflies in the stomach - I tell myself that it's just excitement."

You can watch all your fave BBC Three shows - like RuPaul's Drag Race vs The World – on TV from 1 February or on BBC iPlayer here.