The Nine lacks oomph but at least there’s no whoosh

I wasn’t sold on The Nine.

We already have Good Morning Scotland, BBC Breakfast, the lunchtime bulletin and constant mobile alerts that have turned the nation’s offices into tinnitus breeding grounds.

Then we get home to Jackie Bird and the Central Belt’s unique news service, The Slashing Forecast. Just as we start to doze off, the late-night headlines thrum with reports of who’s resigning and what they want another referendum on.

Why would anyone want to subject themselves to a whole hour of bodies, blunders and Brexit? Then I had a gander at what was on the other side: a reality series about celebrities volunteering for the police. I say ‘celebrities’; they couldn’t get arrested by themselves.

So I settled down to The Nine. They had me at the lack of whoosh.

Whooshing is the bane of TV news. Graphics whoosh across the screen, cameras whoosh around the studio at dizzying angles. Ten minutes of Sky News and I’m reaching for the seasickness tablets.

Not The Nine, an altogether more sedate affair. Co-anchors Rebecca Curran and Martin Geissler — tieless, open-necked — idle in the centre of a turquoise and amethyst studio. Presentationally, there is a touch of Channel 4 News to it, perhaps too slick and metropolitan for a sceptical Scottish audience.

The opening montage of Ordinary Faces of Scotland was trying too hard and went on a bit. I started to wonder if I was watching an advert for a budget lonely hearts service.

But their approach to news is something new north of the Border. The reporters are relaxed, smartly dressed down, and conversational in tone. Political correspondent Rajdeep Sandhu, who had braved a crisp Westminster night to update us on Labour’s latest Brexit stance, was winsome and chatty.

Prognosticating the chances of Jeremy Corbyn’s new proposal, she quipped: ‘If that’s voted down, and — spoiler alert — it will be voted down…’

A follow-up interview with Labour MSP Neil Findlay was less innovative. Findlay, a faithful McCorbynista, stuck to the Dear Leader’s line, whatever it was this hour, while Geissler frowned at him like a disappointed dad missing his five-a-side game for a grim parents’ evening.

Geissler is ex-ITN, a news heavyweight not used to working in this laidback, coffee bar atmosphere. He did his best to fit in and chill out but you could see it in his eyes — he wanted to go the full Paxo on Findlay.

Speaking of chilled out, James Cook had been despatched to Iceland to ask tourists their thoughts on Brexit while stripped down to his swimming trunks and paddling around a lagoon. Then he put the same question to the country’s prime minister — pausing, mercifully, to put some clothes on first.

The gist of his, um, package was that Iceland was an independent country but not in the EU and Scotland could be an independent country, except it wanted to be in the EU.

Quite why this necessitated a trip to Reykjavik was never established but the scenery was lush and Cook proved to be as coyly watchable as he did during the 2014 referendum.

There was plenty of hard news dotted throughout the running order. An exclusive investigation had shown prescription drugs being sold illegally through social networking sites and Dave Cowan had a development in the Kirsty Maxwell story.

Cowan was one of half a dozen ex-STV staffers to pop up on The Nine last night. After a while, I half-expected Angela from the canteen to be introduced as Paris correspondent.

There was a definite attempt to show us The New Scotland, including a piece on ‘Jordan, Dave and Dex, who are in a polyamorous relationship’ and were using the anti-retroviral drug PrEP. We’ve come a long way from Sheena McDonald breaking news of the first pint of milk sold on the Sabbath on Lewis.

The light and fun got a look in, too. Consumer affairs correspondent Laura Miller revealed that the Scottie dog had been put on the Kennel Club watchlist amid plummeting popularity. Typical BBC. Always talking down Scotland.

A particular delight was the interview with the West Lothian schoolgirl who had been crowned Britain’s best dancer. Our Tiggerish correspondent did his best to whip up some excitement but the taciturn lass was nonchalant about the whole business.

‘What’s it like walking down the street? Do people stop you and ask for autographs?’

‘Not really.’

BBC Scotland has put together a solid news magazine programme. A bit too long and with some questionable story selection but something watchable and less frenetic than most of the current affairs shows produced out of London.

Still, if we must have another one of these nightly misery updates, it ought to be hard-hitting and rigorous in its interviews. Sofa chats with sports insiders are all well and good but better suited to breakfast TV. There is no sense in recruiting a Newsnight team to produce a One Show remake.

The Nine doesn’t get carried away with whoosh but it could do with a little more oomph.


Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters: Stephen at

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