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Media and "voices from the regions"

The British Broadcasting Corporation decided to hire television presenters with vigorous, regional accents. It was not a radical change, but many presenters started to use cockneyfied RP. There is an unwritten agreement that the more informal a TV programme is, the more regional accents are allowed. In other words, when journalists talk in a studio or interview a politician, they should use RP or an accent close to RP. But when they work as correspondents from different parts of the world or host a television programme for young people, they are allowed to use more regional features of their accent, such as e.g. a glottal stop. Liberalisation of these rules progresses, which means that more and more non-standard accents are used in BBC.
            One of the most noticeable BBC adventurers and TV presenters is Simon Reeve, born in West London in 1972. He attended comprehensive school and rarely went abroad until he was an adult. He was working in a supermarket, a charity shop, a jewellery shop and as a newspaper post boy. As a hobby, he started investigation into the subject of terrorism and the World Trade Centre bombing in 1993. He even wrote a book “The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism” which was in late 1990s the first book concerning bin Laden. The book warned the West civilisation that Al-Kaida was planning a huge terrorist attack. Just after the attacks on the World Trade Center on 11th September 2001, Reeve’s book became a bestseller (one of the top three) in the United States. From then on, his career flourished. He started to make documentaries from the Middle East for the BBC. His huge advantage is a non-RP accent, which allows him to create a natural image of himself.
            A characteristic feature of Simon Reeve’s speech is glottalisation in some words (e.g. tonigh?, star?, bu?,alrigh?, Dorse?),but in other ones there is no glottal stop (e.g. little, different, start, beauty) (Internet source 18). The same happens with the pronunciation of /h/, where it is absent in some words (e.g. _imself and _ell), but it is present in other words, (e.g. heading, holiday or horn). What is more, the sound /ð/ in initial position becomes /d/, (e.g. dis, dere). The rest of the features seem to be more RP-like. It is worth highlighting that Simon Reeve is a person who did not change his accent to gain popularity. He was chosen by the BBC to be a presenter, who uses more vigorous and regional accent than RP. In other words it is the BBC which wants to change a part of its journalists from the “old-fashioned” RP-speakers to the popular non-standard ones.
            The common use of Cockney-like accent is spread not only by the BBC. Many other media decided to follow BBC’s decision to use more regional accents. Thanks to it, people can hear familiar voices while watching TV or listening to the radio. For instance in Radio Essex presenters speak exclusively in Estuary English, Cockney and some other accents connected with the London area. Received Pronunciation is not used at all. As was mentioned before, this process progresses and it is very possible that in the future, the position of RP in media will be demoted and the accent itself – replaced by e.g. Estuary English. Apart from media, there are many public figures, who use regional accents as well. These are: pop stars, actors, politicians and other people, whose job is strictly connected with their popularity. But neither public figures, nor media are responsible for Cockney’s popularity. They all follow the trend in a passive way. John Wells explains this phenomenon, “The spread is not influenced by the media – newsreaders and soap stars don't matter; what matters is your peer group.”


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