• Why Is Mike Hosking So Hard to Watch?

    I feel sorry for Mike Hosking.  Fronting a show on television may seem like a doddle but it’s not as easy as it seems.

    My fellow-feeling for the beleaguered presenter of Seven Sharp does not arise because I have overlooked or have become inured to his obvious political bias.  It is still there and cannot be entirely suppressed, though I suspect he has made real efforts to conceal, or at least reduce it.

    These days, he reserves his overt biases for release in his other media outlets, and it is his good, or rather bad luck, that his true views are as a result well-known to most of his viewers who are accordingly alert to detect the occasions when they make their expected appearance in Seven Sharp.  It is, still the case, though, that it is the sense that he cannot help but slant the day’s news to suit his social and political prejudices that no doubt explains the large numbers who have signed petitions to have him removed.

    No, the problem he really faces is not an obvious political bias.  I know from my own experience as a presenter of a weekly, nationally networked current affairs show on UK television, that television is a curious medium.  It rewards a hard to define and unusual ability and one that has no other obvious use – the ability to appear natural and relaxed while actually performing a highly unnatural function.  The skilled television presenter has to appear as though he is the man next door, or your drinking partner at the local pub, while at the same time making intelligible and conveying in simple terms items of news and current affairs that are far from easily understood.

    A skilled television presenter will of course always be aware that the cameras are rolling and that every expression and grimace will be revealed to the viewer.  There is no hiding place.  So an experienced presenter will be aware that he – or she – cannot get away with picking his nose or looking sceptical at something said by a guest or fellow presenter.

    But knowing that the cameras pick up everything only exacerbates the problem.   It can so easily translate into an impossibility to escape awareness that everything – good or bad – is being transmitted to the viewer, and it is that constant awareness – or perhaps self-awareness – that, of course, is absolute death to any sense that the presenter is acting naturally.

    Mike Hosking, sadly for him, is a sufferer from a disease from which it is impossible to escape.  Try as he might, he cannot give the impression that he is unaware that the cameras are on him.  The more he tries to appear natural, the more evident it is that he is painfully trying to appear so – and that of course destroys any pretence that he is merely a value-free reporter and transmitter of the stories of the day.

    The more he tries to behave as though he is just an ordinary bloke, sharing with us the normal reactions to the items he is reporting, the more he has to act the part – hence the constant changes of facial expression, the shrugs and grimaces, the engagement with the viewer constantly maintained by always looking into – and looking for –  the camera lens.

    And the problem is that, once a presenter is afflicted with the disease, there is no cure.  Acting being relaxed and naturally rapidly develops into over-acting, so that the viewer is increasingly delivered the message that it is not the message that matters but rather the reactions, expressions and subliminally expressed views of the presenter that are the real point of the exercise.  And obvious over-acting is easily equated with pretending, so that the viewer feels he cannot believe the message that is being delivered to him and his trust is therefore forfeited.

    Once the viewer twigs that it is the performer, and not the substance of the story, that is the message, the performance becomes increasingly hard to watch.  In Mike Hosking’s case, it is not so much that his audience finds it difficult to accept the views he tries to promulgate, as that they want to see the story told professionally and accurately, rather than having to watch a performance by Mike Hosking whose primary purpose is to tell us what he thinks about the issue.

    What can he do to remedy the situation?  Sadly for him, not a lot.  Once a presenter is constantly thinking only of how he appears to his audience, the damage is done and cannot be repaired.  He, or his employers, could take a break and see if that could help him.  In the meantime, the rest of us will find it increasingly difficult to watch Seven Sharp.




1 Comment

  1. Patricia says: November 21, 2017 at 10:12 pmReply

    He must be hell to live with!

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