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Get down and dirty – your guide to the BBC’s shabby chic


MS NAJA Nielsen, director of digital at BBC News, has told a press briefing about how the Corporation’s new rolling news channel aims to build trust in its output: ‘It’s a bit like, be as sweaty and dirty as when we’re in the field is more trustworthy than if we look like we’ve just stepped out of, an awards ceremony or a fine dinner party.’  

She went on to instruct presenters never to use deodorants or perfume, and gave examples of styles to be used by different types of correspondent to help the BBC to regain a semblance of the trust it once enjoyed.

The Columbo

For crime reporters the Columbo look is just perfect. Think dirty raincoat, dishevelled hair, the smell of cigars and chilli con carne. At the end of each report remember to say ‘There’s just one more thing . . .’ before closing with a profound remark.

The Steptoe

When the arts are to be covered, why not take on the guise of Albert Steptoe? He never missed a bargain, and for many was the epitome of a disgusting old man who last saw a bath 50 years ago. Don’t forget the braces, gnarled expression and yellowing teeth (see make-up).

The Worzel Gummidge

This style is ideally suited to environment correspondents. Imagine waiting patiently in a barn for the sight of a recently hatched blue tit. You will be enveloped in farmyard smells and your wellingtons will be caked in excrement from a variety of animals. Why not chew a piece of hay while presenting?

(Female and non-binary presenters may prefer to model themselves on Aunt Sally.)

The Dibnah

Staff who specialise in the built environment should study the dress code of Fred Dibnah. A flat cap, dirty boots and mucky overalls are all you need. Overalls are similar to the dungarees you find in Hobbs, but please note that dungarees would not look authentic. Wherever possible presenters should speak with the flat vowels used by poor northerners who live on council estates and have large dogs.

The Bowen

Fortunately, our war correspondents have a perfect role model in Jeremy Bowen. Our viewers love war clips and it is your responsibility to get close to the action and dress up in as much safety equipment as you can lay your hands on. Just make sure that when you are filmed lying on the floor during an intense bombardment there are no old ladies in the frame walking back from the shops with their groceries.

The Hunter

Sports reporters should search the archives to investigate the most brutal game in British football, namely the 1970 Cup Final replay between Leeds United and Chelsea. In particular, study the performance of Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter, who competed with Chelsea’s Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris to be the dirtiest player. When reporting on any sport be sure to release your inner Hunter or Harris.

The Greta

The Greta or ‘Thunberg’ look is perfect for all of our young climate crisis experts. Charity shops are good places to look for ugly, ill-fitting outfits that make you appear to be concerned about the detrimental effects of ‘fast fashion’ and the damage it is alleged to do to the environment. Often these clothes can be worn over your everyday wear. When presenting use a bewildered stare and a delivery that is seemingly fed to you from an unidentifiable deity.

The Gates

Spectacles and grubby pullovers are all that is needed to be regarded as being an expert commentator on all technology and medical matters. Try to perfect a messianic look that portrays a visionary with the answers to both overpopulation and the perfect password. 

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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