ConText: Noddy Shots

I know that one. It's a popular drinking game involving a kids' TV show.

I know that one. It's a popular drinking game involving a kids' TV show.

It involves television all right, and it also involves the vigorous head movement that is the little wooden fella's trademark. Noddy shots are at the centre of a very grown-up debate over what is real and what is makey-uppey on our TV screens.

Well, Noddy's not real - even I've come to terms with that
Neither are some of the interviews we see on television, apparently, where noddy shots are used.

Who would do such a thing?
Alan Yentob, the BBC's creative director, has been accused of being a bit too creative on the arts series Imagine. We are asked to imagine Yentob was present at interviews with artists Gilbert & George and singer Scott Walker.


Just in case we couldn't picture it, clips of Yentob reacting to the interviewees' remarks were inserted at strategic intervals.

"Everybody does it - it's a universal technique," pleaded Yentob. Noddy shots are used widely when there's only one camera available - after the interview, the presenter is filmed nodding and suitably rapt and attentive.

Electronic press kits often leave space for the journalist to insert the question, to make it look like they're conducting the interview, although they may never have met the interviewee.

Next you'll be telling me Gerry Ryan isn't really sitting there at the dinner table with Brian McFadden
Other "universal techniques" used by tricksy TV types include "contrived cutaway" shots, such as a chicken leg, the "door-knock shot", the pre-arranged arrival of the camera crew, and the "walking shot", where the interviewer - gasp! - walks towards the camera. More heinous, though - at least in the eyes of Ofcom, the UK's media regulator - is the practice of fake phone-ins, where programme staff pose as contestants, or fictitious winners are announced. The BBC was fined after it was found that children's show Blue Peter had faked the results of a competition.

Other BBC television and radio programmes are now under scrutiny, including the Comic Relief and Children in Need telethons.

If you can't trust Blue Peter, who can you trust?You can trust David Kermode, the news editor of Channel Five, to spot an opportunity. In what is definitely not a contrived publicity stunt, Kermode has vowed to rid his channel of all such trickery and deception, and maintain the very high standards that viewers have come to expect from Five.

Try at home: Don't give me those noddy shots - I know you're not listening.

Try at the studio: Can you film someone from behind to make it look like it's me doing the noddy shots?

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist