The ordeal of Ortis Deley is over, for the moment. Thrust into the presenter’s chair – or, in his case, on to the stool – for Channel 4’s coverage of the World Athletics Championship, he was abandoned, hung out to dry, left for dead by the production staff. With no support, not even a rudimentary autocue, he has now achieved the celebrity no celebrity wants…a huge hit on YouTube.
It is painful to watch, but beneath the churning nerves is a pleasant, easy-on-the-eye guy who with the right help can get his career moving again.
What he has learned very quickly is that live television is difficult and dangerous. My 35 years of news presenting taught me two things – there is always more to learn, and if you think you can stroll through it, you will trip up.
Live news broadcasting is a road strewn with potholes. One of the deepest potholes, threatening a total loss of balance, is the event that “will happen very soon, but we’re not sure exactly when”. This requires the presenter to talk – to ad lib – over a live picture that will, it is hoped, develop into dramatic live coverage of an unfolding event. I have had to talk for fifteen minutes over a shot of an RAF rescue plane sitting motionless at the end of the runway, waiting to take off. The editor’s voice repeated into my earpiece – “We’re staying with this – it’ll be taking off any minute…”
Even more surreal was my “commentary” over a static shot of a ladder leaning against the back wall of a house in east London. Inside the house, we were told, a hostage situation was unfolding. Unfortunately it didn’t unfold very fast. Nobody went up the ladder. Nobody came down the ladder. Nobody even came out to move the ladder. All the while, my repeated refrain – “the police, I’m afraid, are giving very few details at the moment” – was even beginning to bore me.
All you can do is laugh about it afterwards. Hopefully, Ortis Deley is at least beginning to smile again.