The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Channel 4 announce Athletics commentary and presenting team – I’m not impressed

with 44 comments

I know Channel 4 will be distraught that I’m not giving them the thumbs up but heck I’ll write the blog post anyway. Channel 4 have taken over the rights for the World Athletics Championships in both 2011 and 2013. It is a bold move by Channel 4 and might give an insight into these constant swirling stories that the channel are interested in Formula 1. So last week they announced who they had signed-up and apart from one or two good moves – the rest are distinctly meh.

The front man will be former CBBC and The Gadget Show presenter Ortis Deley. I know over on the BBC Jake Humphrey was given the prime job of fronting the F1 coverage having come from a Children’s TV background but his track record had been in live television – Deley’s has not been. It just isn’t grabbing me. Obviously they couldn’t bring in Sue Barker but Ortis seems uninspired. When Channel 4 brought in the cricket they went with Mark Nicholas who was an inspired choice and their commentary and pundit team was first rate. Maybe I should move on to the good moves.

They begin (and nearly end with) Michael Johnson. Johnson is a freelancer and will work with the channel for this event but will return to the BBC for athletics events at London 2012. Johnson is the supreme pundit out there so bringing him in seems like a slam-dunk move. I also like Katherine Merry. Think she’s an excellent pundit. Iwan Thomas and Dean Macey less so. However this might not be ideal but then we get to another disappointment.

The BBC have a first-rate commentary team on athletics. Jonathan Edwards, Steve Cram, Brendan Foster, Paul Dickenson, etc… but none of them hve been loaned out to Channel 4 for the Athletics and they have instead gone with John Rawling and Rob Walker. Rawling is a safe pair of hands but that is about it. Best known for being ITV’s voice of boxing when it was involved in the sport in the last decade and is now involved with Sky’s boxing coverage. Walker is best known for announcing the snooker players into the arena at major BBC snooker events. He does have a background in commentating on IAAF events (I’m presuming for a world feed) but it’s not the voices you’d expect to hear. I have no idea if they channel approached the BBC about their commentary team and a loan agreement but if they didn’t then I’d be disappointed.

The trackside reporting will be Sonja McLaughlan who has performed that role on radio for several years.

All in all I’m not inspired by these choices but heck who gives a damn what I think. I do think that Ortis might be in a trial run for the F1 job should the channel take those rights as Jake Humphrey is not leaving the BBC with Olympics and World Cup opportunities ahead of him at the Beeb.

Edit August 31: Ortis Deley has been removed by Channel 4 as lead presenter. Read the full story behind this link

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Written by neilmonnery

July 4th, 2011 at 11:23 am

Posted in Other Sport

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44 Responses to 'Channel 4 announce Athletics commentary and presenting team – I’m not impressed'

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  1. While I respect your judgment that I am a safe pair of hands, I would also point out that I was BBC Radio’s athletics correspondent before moving to ITV in 2005, and had covered the sport on a regular basis for the corporation from 1988, through four Olympic Games, Commonwealths, Europeans and Worlds. I commentated – with Stuart Storey and Rob Walker – for the Commonwealth Games World Feed (host broadcasters) for 2010 in Delhi, and I am am the regular stadium announcer/commentator for all major UK meetings. Yes, I was the lead boxing commentator for ITV before they terminated their contracts and now regularly commentate for Sky (including the Haye-Klitschko world heavyweight title fight last weekend). I have also commentated on Football for ITV and the Premier League,on Darts and on Golf.
    However, I do not believe I will sell Channel 4 or the listeners short and look forward to hearing your observations in a couple of months.

    John Rawling

    5 Jul 11 at 6:54 pm

  2. First of all John thank you for your reply. It yet again shows that the internet is a rather public setting and anyone can read anything I may write about them. I will concede that I did not know about your Athletics background but did know about the other sports which you have covered – and I have heard you on every sport you have mentioned bar Athletics – and I certainly do like you on boxing and think you call a good fight. I look forward to hearing you – and watching the whole of the event on Channel 4 – and I will give my honest opinions on the blog at that time. I do have up most respect for everyone in the profession and have written both praising and disapproving blogs about various commentators throughout this blog as watching sport on the tellybox is something that I do a fair bit of.

    I stand by what I wrote as I genuinely rate the BBC’s Athletics team extremely highly but I’ve been pleasantly surprised and wrong many times before – and no doubt will be again many times over.

    Good Luck and enjoy the championships and I’ll ensure I write a blog post during or just after the event.

    admin

    6 Jul 11 at 11:41 am

  3. Hats off to Mr Rawling for fronting you up on this. I’m looking forward to hearing him as I find his a refreshing change from the ex-pros who seem to be ubiquitous in the commentary box these days. He als has a good sense of humour, which, let’s face it, is often needed when watching Great Britain’s athletics teams… ;o)

    Bunky

    Dave Bowers

    6 Jul 11 at 12:38 pm

  4. Hats off to Mr Rawling for fronting you up on this. I’m looking forward to hearing him as I find his style a refreshing change from the ex-pros who seem to be ubiquitous in the commentary box these days. He also has a good sense of humour, which, let’s face it, is often needed when watching Great Britain’s athletics teams… ;o)

    Bunky

    Dave Bowers

    6 Jul 11 at 12:39 pm

  5. So good you posted this comment twice Bunky ;o)

    But I agree with his sentiment and major props to Mr Rawling for leaving a comment. I agree that there are too far ex-pros in the job but some are very good – some less so.

    For me a commentary team won’t make or break my enjoyment of an event but they can enhance it. It is a big tournament as the last major outdoor event before London 2012 and I look forward to seeing the championships and hope my reservations are without cause although I will point out my main reservation wasn’t with the commentary team – but the presenter – we shall see if Ortis can prove me wrong.

    admin

    6 Jul 11 at 12:49 pm

  6. I’m delighted to hear that Rob Walker will be working for C4 – as this means he won’t be ruining the world feed commentary for those of us outside the UK as he did 2 years ago. He is a capital letters commentator, big on generalities while offering little in terms of specific information. He also had no sense of scale in how he built things up; having talked up the most mundane heat on the first two days as if it was a major event, he began the third day with “and now the excitement really begins”. Unforgiveably, he interrupted Peter Matthews in mid-sentence at the end of the 100m final and even talked over Steve Ovett on several occasions. Sorry to go on, but I don’t think that I’ve ever been so annoyed by a commentator. I always enjoyed John Rawling on athletics on the radio and he will be good, but John, if you’re reading, get them to give you a mute button for Walker.

    Kentkiwi

    6 Aug 11 at 10:25 am

  7. Very interesting to hear that. Since Mr Rawling has commented on this blog I am really geared up to listen closely to the commentators to see how they do and will blog my thoughts on it after the championships.

    admin

    8 Aug 11 at 10:57 am

  8. It’s completely academic as the choice has been made, but I’d suggest Martin Gillingham as an alternative. He is best known as a rugby commentator on ITV and (I think) Sky, but he has done a fair bit of world feed from Diamond League meets (or their equivalent in previous years), often as sole commentator, and was part of the TVNZ track commentary team at the Beijing (or possibly Athens) Olympics, and impressed.

    Kentkiwi

    9 Aug 11 at 11:00 am

  9. How embaressing for Michael Johnston to have to be paired with the stuttering simpleton that CH4 have as ‘anchor man’ for the coverage of the World Champs. Is he possibly on a work placement from primary school. He struggles to even read the autocue or script. What a clown!!

    Muchtiescouser

    27 Aug 11 at 12:14 pm

  10. Channel 4 response to my complaint about the utterly useless presenter. “We are sorry to read that Ortis is not to your liking. However, it is a fact that very few presenters on any programme meet with the unqualified approval of everyone in our audience.” I would love to know of ANYONE who gave him unqualified approval.

    Tony

    27 Aug 11 at 3:09 pm

  11. The choice of Ortis to front the program is one of the worst i have seen since Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox did their bit for comedy international , of all the people to pick why would you pick someone who has never worked on live TV? , he is as wooden as Pinocchio.
    I hope this is the last we see of him on live TV , yesterday he couldn’t even read or remember the names of his fellow commentators , horrendous choice C4.

    Steve

    28 Aug 11 at 9:30 am

  12. It has spoilt my enjoyment of the games! Very disapointed

    Angharad

    29 Aug 11 at 10:43 am

  13. Oh dear. I was at best curious when Channel 4 announced Ortis Deeley as presenter, but suffered two and a bit days coverage it is just an unmitigated disaster.

    Put simply, I have to hide behind the sofa when Ortis comes on screen…”The British training camp was in,erm,erm, a long way away”. Gulp.

    Plaudits to the excellent John Rawling, but please bring back John Inverdale and the beeb.

    Marc

    29 Aug 11 at 12:20 pm

  14. Not impressed with Channel 4’s coverage at all unfortunately. Far too many advert breaks which complete spoil the coverage.
    The commentators have been fine but not the presenter. Just not knowledgeable enough.
    I really hope that Channel 4 hand back athletics to the BBC after this.

    Rachel

    29 Aug 11 at 2:39 pm

  15. Thank you all for your comments. I will round them up and use them in my final analysis of the event and how Ch. 4 did.

    Rachel just to let you know Ch. 4 have the right for both these World’s but also 2013 as well.

    neilmonnery

    29 Aug 11 at 4:00 pm

  16. I like the idea of Channel Four getting a relatively major sporting event on principle, but they really need to figure out a way around the adverts. Sponsorship, maybe. I dunno. But three minutes of adverts – plus trailers, for heaven’s sake – every six minutes or so is just plain irritating. Haven’t seen Ortis, but I don’t have any particular problems with the commentators. I like Dean Macey in particular.

    Applemask

    29 Aug 11 at 5:33 pm

  17. As an avid athletics fan i have been appalled by their presenters. Commentators have been ok, with katherine merry coming up tops in my books. But otis and rick! Need i say more, except someone needs to tell rick presenters don’t talk with their hands! Regardless of all the presenters and commentators errors, i think the most horrid is their highlight programmes. Don’t tell me channel 4 do not have experience in editing programmes. Sunday nights as an example was absolutely appalling. Not starting line ups, literally it was like it was edited by someone with A.D.D! I’m switching to eurosports!

    Lildragongirl

    29 Aug 11 at 7:52 pm

  18. I caught the Atletics earlier today, but honestly didn’t know it was on because I look to BBC for all my Athletics coverage and initially my first thought was what the hell.

    I’m actually hoping that Athletics on Ch4 will be a good thing, but would like to see a lot more Athletics on Free To Access Television full stop.

    For me the hey day for Athletics was when we had in on both ITV and BBC1 before Sky stuck their noses in and pretty much nicked most of the Golden League Grand Prix events.

    As an aspiring sprinter back in the day for Cerebraly Palsy England and Wales. I’d look forward to watching all the Gold Ribbon track events on both ITV and BBC througout the summer months. So hopefully this move by Channel four will see the BBC try to get a little more competitive because in recent years we’ve only really seen coverage of the major events and not to much of the international Grand Prix events, which is very sad.

    As to the commentators for Ch 4 it will take a bit of getting used to, but if they know there stuff and give it a bit of enthusiasm I’m sure I will adjust.

    ian Cullen

    29 Aug 11 at 8:27 pm

  19. I Do Feel That Channel Four Should Get Well Known Athletics Presenters And x tv sport Presenters Liked Steve Rider or get Barry Davies Or Get John Rawling On As Channel Four Athletics Presenters And Commentator That Would Be Better But I Do Think The BBC Tv Should Wake Up Now And Get Athletics Back On To BBC Tv And Boxing And F1 Don’t Let Sky To Have It All

    David Wiggy wiggins

    30 Aug 11 at 4:33 am

  20. I Do Feel That Channel Four Should Get Well Known Athletics Presenters And x tv sport Presenters Liked Steve Rider or get Barry Davies Or Get John Rawling On As Channel Four Athletics Presenters And Commentator That Would Be Better But I Do Think The BBC Tv Should Wake Up Now And Get Athletics Back On To BBC Tv And Boxing And F1 Don’t Let Sky To Have It All

    David Wiggy wiggins

    30 Aug 11 at 4:33 am

  21. I have been watching the Channel 4 presentation of Athletics and am finding it poor.

    Yesterday was particularly bad with the commentary team failing to comment on what we all could see on our screens and in particular the finish of the 110 metre men’s hurdles final. But worse was to build to the climax of the men’s pole vault and then end the transmission before the event was completed with the comment that you can see the result in the highlights programme. If Channel 4 do not have the flexibility to fit live broadcasts into its schedules then it should not be taking the championship.

    The studio anchors are poor seeming unable to lead the discussion and unprepared for the inevitable advertising breaks by having to interrupt the discussions.

    And the adverts seem endless and destroy any continuity in watching.

    Let’s hope BBC can get these events back!

    Bill

    30 Aug 11 at 9:05 am

  22. I tried to watch the athletics this morning, stuck it out for an hour but had to switch off. Far too many advert breaks.
    As for Ortis Deley, I’d never heard of him before but as soon as he spoke, childrens presenter came into my mind.

    Richard

    30 Aug 11 at 12:34 pm

  23. I have been watching – the coverage it is terrible – the front man is really bad. I feel sorry for Michael Johnson (would love to hear what the direct Mr J has to say about him!) and anyone else who is put in the unenviable position of having to sit beside him. The interviews leave you squirming for the athletes who quite often need a little coaxing as not all have PR skills. Results are very slowly bought to screen – infact I have been looking them up on the BBC website as its quicker! The most used sentence seems to be “we will bring you that result later”! I totally agree with all the good words about Katherine Merry she is very good, a breathe of fresh air infact! But, Channel 4, Ortis is not your man for the future!

    Jane Green

    30 Aug 11 at 12:50 pm

  24. Ortis WHO??
    So embarrassing.
    “We’ll be back after de break”.
    Well I won’t be. Pathetic choice.

    Alan Twyford

    30 Aug 11 at 1:19 pm

  25. This must be the worst athletics coverage ever. They have taken the worst elements of the BBC coverage- too many sycophantic talking heads- and made them worser(if there is such a word!0
    The best bits of the Beeb, you are told who is in a race, you see the race and you know who the GB runners are they have ignored. Now you see the home straight, a gablle of words from a useless commentator and you find out who won by the close up.
    The sport of athletics comes second to the “personalities” the expected winners of the event and the fawning former athlete who pontificates at length.
    Lets us see the athletics not the presenters. Thank goodness the BEEB will show us the athletics in 2012.
    UKAthletics you should never have supported C4’s bid to host it- it has done athletics absolutely no good at all

    nick cooper

    30 Aug 11 at 2:32 pm

  26. My general impression of the Channel4 television coverage of the World Athletics Championships from Daegu is just how amateurish and disjointed it is. John Rawlings race commentaries have been peppered with glaring errors,just today he called Lashawn Merrett Angelo Taylor during the men’s 400 metres final, and there have been several others. It must be said that Channel4’s coverage and its choice of commentators gives one the impression that the whole presentation has been cobbled together at the last minute and, quite frankly has been a televisual disaster.Whilst I am no great fan of the output of the BBC, their coverage would have been far more presentable and certainly much more professional. I sincerely hope that Channel4,with its incessant commercial breaks during transmission, do not cover next year’s London Olympics. That would be a nightmare!

    Elwyn Richards

    30 Aug 11 at 2:44 pm

  27. I have come up with the best resolution to this, I have been watching channel 4 coverage in mute, while listening to BBC 5 live, this gets round the irritating add breaks, such a shame to not be able to enjoy the channel 4 coverage, have been really spoilt by the BBC and their wonderful crew.

    lochdhu

    30 Aug 11 at 3:13 pm

  28. Yesterday’s climax to the pole vault event summed up, in one unbelievably amateurish moment, Channel 4’s inability to handle this sort of big-ticket occasion. Which incompetent idiot-on-toast thought that, at the point of a nailbiting showdown between two stunning athletes, the viewers really wanted to see some cheap mind-numbing pre-recorded trash about B&B owners? That’s the difference between the BBC and Channel 4. Class.

    Jazz Hands

    30 Aug 11 at 4:28 pm

  29. Well The BBC Tv Should Get The Athletics World Championship On To BBC One Wright Now Or Get It On To BBC 2 Wright Now I Think It Is A Let Down Now The BBC Has Not Got The Athletics World Championships Live On BBC One And BBC2 Tv I Do Feel Liked To Throw A Brick At The BBC Wright Now And That Is True

    David Wiggy wiggins

    30 Aug 11 at 7:11 pm

  30. I love athletics but the C4 coverage incessant ad breaks has left me traumatized. Please no more.

    As for Ortis. Why…???

    Sam

    31 Aug 11 at 4:31 am

  31. […] I wrote a couple of months ago about Ortis’ appointment, ‘The front man will be former CBBC and The Gadget Show presenter Ortis Deley. I know over on the BBC Jake Humphrey was given the prime job of fronting the F1 coverage having come from a Children’s TV background but his track record had been in live television – Deley’s has not been. It just isn’t grabbing me. Obviously they couldn’t bring in Sue Barker but Ortis seems uninspired. When Channel 4 brought in the cricket they went with Mark Nicholas who was an inspired choice and their commentary and pundit team was first rate. Maybe I should move on to the good moves.’ That is from my blog lamenting the Channel 4 coverage. […]

  32. I would just say that Ortis does have live TV experience. He’s presented live TV for the Trouble Channel, Live & Kicking and Short Change. I’m not sure what happened here. Perhaps not prepared enough for the events.

    Cameron

    1 Sep 11 at 12:30 am

  33. mmm , why when you have so many Athletic personalities to pick from ( who are very good ) , would you pick someone who has nothing to do with sports journalism is beyond me , Katherine Merry would have been a really good choice , but as we know the people in charge normally have no clue what they are doing and listen to nobody , seems C4 are no different.
    I have ditched C4 completely by the way and am just watching Eurosport’s coverage , which i have to say isn’t very good either , but way better than C4.

    Steve

    1 Sep 11 at 8:50 am

  34. As a postscript to my previous post,I would just like to say that Channel4’s one saving grace in their coverage of the World Athletics Championships is securing the services of Michael Johnson. Johnson was one of the greatest athletes ever to set foot on a running track,and such is his knowledge of the sport even the BBC have been quick to acquire his services as an athletics pundit. I must say that I am relieved to hear that the BBC will be covering the London Olympics,presumably with Michael Johnson in tow.

    Elwyn Richards

    1 Sep 11 at 10:53 am

  35. Please May I Have Some Of What David Wiggy Wiggins Is On?

    Dave Bowers

    1 Sep 11 at 1:28 pm

  36. My heart sinks knowing that channel 4 will be covering the 2012 Paralympics…

    Stacey Riley

    1 Sep 11 at 3:11 pm

  37. Out of the mouth of my 12 year old athlete. ‘This Channel 4 coverage is rubbish. It is nothing like as good as BBC.’ The whole family are disappointed at the level of presentation, and the amount of available air time. Channel 4 have no real clue what passionate athletic fans expect. Or they are not bothered because they are getting advertising income. If they honestly think they can manage a live event where the build up of crowd and commentator is all part of the show and allow adverts at the set time with no recognition of the action, they will lose credibility and have no chance of retaining the contract. They are not truly committed to the sport, and they showed their lack of understanding by putting that front man in place. That choice has blown any credibility, and IAAF will not forget the mess they made.

    Chris Wiseman

    3 Sep 11 at 12:34 am

  38. Ooops I have been mistakening John Rowling’s voice as B Foster’s. I had thought “John” was Mr Foster’s middle name. Can anyone tell me whether these two have similar voice? I did think i saw a shot of the C4 commentary team. Sorry Mr Rowlings. but i do like your commentary. You have done a fantastic job.

    Ande

    3 Sep 11 at 9:00 pm

  39. I feel sorry for the likes of Mo Farah, Dai Greene and Hannah England, whose achievements at these championships will be largely forgotten because of the lightweight C4 coverage. I feel slightly cheated not to have had Mo’s fantastic 10,000m silver called by Steve Cram and Brendan Foster. In my opinion, the BBC have been hand-cuffed by the pressures of having to accept an unsatisfactory licence fee deal from the government, but depite the cuts I really hope that they can find a way of remaining a serious player in free-to-air TV sports coverage. My view is that sport is always better on the BBC, due to the absence of adverts and an uncanny knack of assembling good teams of presenters/commentators/pundits. Please BBC – agressively defend the sports TV rights you still have. I do not want to see other domestic and international athletics events bleed away to C4 after 2012. I hope that the IAAF can understand that their world championships are shown in a much better light on BBC TV and give them back the rights in 2015.

    SteveJ

    4 Sep 11 at 12:40 am

  40. Wow , ‘an unsatisfactory license fee’ , i am sure alot of people would have alot to say on that subject.
    I for one would like to see it removed altogether , i think it might stop them wasting the millions they do on useless programmes they like to make and rediculous wages they like to pay their high wage earners.

    Steve

    4 Sep 11 at 8:18 am

  41. They need someone professional and experienced as the main presenter what about JIm Rosenthal??

    Jane Green

    4 Sep 11 at 9:29 am

  42. I can understand why the licence fee is potentially a controversial subject, especially now, but I think the £12 per month represents good value (particularly when you consider that the BBC has to try and cater for the widest possible range of tastes) and it covers TV, radio and internet services. Better than £45 per month for Sky sports? However, the thread here is athletics and again I think BBC do it best – free from adverts is a big plus in their coverage and the presenters and production team just seem to have a better grasp of things. Sure they shouldn’t be complacent, but I’m looking forward to 2012 and the Olympics.

    SteveJ

    4 Sep 11 at 5:42 pm

  43. […] asked me to write a review of the coverage on Channel Four after I expressed my displeasure at the coverage when it was announced. Mostly I was discontent with Ortis Deley as presenter as I didn’t think he had it in him to […]

  44. […] have a job in the public eye then you’ll get criticism. I remember once blogging about the Channel 4 athletics coverage and their lead commentator John Rawling read it and wasn’t happy. Now we all know Ortis stunk […]

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