It Was A Pleasure To…By Trevor Plumbly

After hearing an old friend’s comments on his final regular broadcast, I couldn’t help feeling short-changed by the folks that run national radio here in New Zealand. Dougal Stevenson’s final remarks were delivered with the same calm dignity with which he had presented TVNZ national news for so many years. There’s far more to Dougal than a BBC accent, there’s a genuine love of the English language, a deceptively dry wit and, as I discovered, a willingness to encourage those new to public performances. My first encounter with him was for the first episode of the TV series ‘Antiques For Love Or Money’. Throughout that programme, and the ones that followed, he provided an example of how TV personalities should go about their work. Always thoroughly prepared, calm and unflaggingly polite to all involved, he hosted the shows with an assurance that filtered through to crew and cast alike. 

Later he hosted the series ‘Dunedin Diary’: no teleprompter or desktop computer to back up, just good topical live television with a professional at the helm. When we teamed up for fundraising auctions, the entertainer replaced the newsreader, offering a gentle wit to engage bidders on a personal level, thus compensating them for my rantings (it often worked!). An overdue award in this year’s Honours list was accepted with the same self-effacing manner as his last regular broadcast was delivered. The powers-that-be in broadcasting may have decided that slicker and quicker is the way of the future for national radio; if so, someone should point out that it’s the lack of hype that keeps us tuned in. In an age when everybody is bemoaning the lack of communication skill in our children, it’s ironic that a national broadcasting network should allow itself to lose someone so patently talented in reaching people at all levels, by simply speaking well.

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