The Best Example of 'how to do a TV commentary.'

14 July 1969

I suppose this story only has a vague connection with sport and television. I mention it here because many times in my lifetime of working in the medium of TV commentary I have heard people try to tell me, and other commentators, just 'how it (TV commentary) should be done!'

Many of these 'experts' do this while mostly not ever having ever been anywhere near a microphone.

My late and much loved Father-in-Law came in that class. I reckoned dear old Tom's often announced firm opinions about how TV sport should be covered - or the News - came about because he watched a lot of it from his armchair. However I always respected his view; he was a viewer and entitled to it.

Not many people can claim to be expert broadcasters of sport on TV. What exactly is expert? No one really knows.

I certainly cannot claim to be one. But what I can claim is, I hope, my own style of doing a call.

In summary, over the years, I have tried to belong to a personal school of trying to mainly identify, entertain and inform'  That's all  - but to do it in a TV way, not done with the total verbal description that might be better say, in radio.

Others of course have other ways of doing a perfectly good TV call. And that's fine.

Back in 1969 the great news anchorman Walter Cronkite was on the air for CBS News from Cape Kennedy in Florida. For a massive world audience he was doing the TV commentary of Mankind's first flight to the moon. For the still young medium this was - and still is - one of the world's most significant TV moments.

Cronkite was hugely famous at that time.  He is forever recalled as the man who 'told America' via the CBS news that President John F. Kennedy had been killed by an assassins bullet.' He also had heavily influenced a change of view from hawk to dove on America's involvement in the Vietnam war.

Cronkite was also expert on the American space programme - and the TV coverage of it.

So while he was on the air on that famous day many of the CBS staff wondered just what the great man would say at the moment of lift-off on such a momentous day for TV and world history.

But as the rocket blasted off from its 36-story high launching pad, in what surely must have been a fantastic opportunity to exclaim something - Cronkite said - NOTHING!

In the truest example of 'how to do' TV commentary Cronkite later stated that he believed that 'no human voice should ever interrupt such a dream.'

So that day at the microphone he waited and waited in silence as the world gasped in wonderment.

Only after some breathless moments (though in reality probably only a few seconds more) did Cronkite utter what was considered by American viewers and historians to be the immortal TV line.

'What a moment!' he cried, 'Man is on the way to the moon!'

How would we commentators of today have reacted in that same situation?



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