Edinburgh actor and ex-Portobello High School lad Scott is latest voice of BBC 1 and BBC 2

If you're watching BBC 2 today or, for that matter are a regular viewer of BBC 1 you may well recognise the voice linking the programmes, especially if you attended the old Portobello High School back in the Nineties.

By Liam Rudden
Friday, 24th September 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 24th September 2021, 7:28 am
Scott Hoatson in his booth with the furry BBC 2 indent for company
Scott Hoatson in his booth with the furry BBC 2 indent for company

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That's because the BBC' s latest continuity announcer is former Duddingston Primary and Porty High pupil, Scott Hoatson, best known for playing Private Euan ‘Rocket’ Armstrong in the popular army drama Bluestone 42.

Sitting in his studio booth at the White City Media Village in West London, the 37-year-old actor reveals it was a serendipitous conversation that landed him his latest role.

Scott Hoatson as Rocket in Bluestone 42

Not long returned from the United States where he had just finished a year-long contract which, but for the pandemic, would have seen him starring in the Fringe hit, Potted Potter, Scott found himself looking for work.

"Like everything else in this game, there was a little bit of good fortune and good timing involved. It was just after the big lockdown finished and there was very little acting work around. I happened to be in touch with a mate who does it and they told me the BBC were looking to expand their repertoire of voices, jokingly I said, 'If they're ever looking for a Scottish voice you know where I am.'

"My mate spoke to their boss and then came back to me saying, 'We are looking for a Scottish voice.' Then the formal process kicked in and, after recording demo reels I got an interview on the phone and got the job."

However, Scott, who hosted the Edinburgh Evening News Local Hero Awards in 2015, quickly discovered that there is much more to life as a continuity announcer than just filling in the gaps - they call them transitions in the business - between programmes.

Scott Hoatson Local Hero Awards 2015

"I'm stuck in a wee booth and can do BBC 2 one day and BBC 1 the next,” he explains. “We write all our own scripts, so there's actually quite a lot to do. You arrive a couple of hours before going on air and the director briefs you about what shows they want mentioned, for example, Strictly Come Dancing is a big show right now, so they would want that talked about quite a lot.

"They also tell you the programmes they would like you to talk over the credits of and the length of that station idents that are being used. So you get a skeletal framework of what they want and then you have to script it."

With the longest transitions lasting no more than 15 seconds, saying all you need to say before the opening credits of the next programme start to roll can be a challenge, there can be a lot of information to get across.

"I have quite a fast speech pattern, other announcers are naturally slower, but it is literally how many words can you fit in to say what you have to say while trying to be witty at the same time."

With such a diverse audience, any quips must be well thought through, “You have t be sure that any joke you tell will be funny to everyone,” Scott confirms.

The booth itself, is like a "Bond villain's lair," he says.

"It has a glass window looking onto the director's studio where they have a bank of about 25 screens in front of them and all these gizmos and gadgets. My booth is a miniature version of that, with about 15 TV screens, three or four computer screens and a comfy chair, so, maybe, if a movie comes on and you've written your script for the night, you can kick back a little."

Recalling his first live announcement, he admits, "There's a big red fader that you have to push to go live, when you do, the On-Air light goes on. The first time I pushed it my palms were wringing with sweat because I knew that when I slid this big red fader up, I'd be talking to millions of people and couldn't get it wrong... I still get a little adrenalin kick in my belly every time I go live."

Laughing, he adds, "I also check the On-Air light about 100 times a shift, just to make sure I haven't accidentally hit the fader."

Of course, as a continuity announcer you can never truly relax, technical faults and news flashes being just two of the reasons a continuity announcer might find themselves going live unexpectedly.

"The idea of live continuity is that if anything goes wrong, you're there to jump in, so you always have to have one eye on what's going out and be ready for the director giving you a 10 second cue to go live if there's a breakdown.

He continues, "I've not had one of those moments yet but I slightly live in fear of them because there's the formal compliance element that has to be said, you also have to judge, in an instant, what tone you should use and there's also a lot of technical things that you need to do. I have my cheat sheet with me at all times."

He adds, "It was only a short time after I'd done my first live solo shift that the Duke of Edinburgh died and, while I was fascinated to see how it was handled, I was also very grateful that, with just two week's experience, I wasn't on duty at the time."

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