Former BBC newsreader says English language is ‘being mangled’ by presenters

Former BBC newsreader Jan Leeming says she has “given up” trying to find work because modern presenters “mangle” the English language.

The 82-year-old says a move towards regional accents and a switch away from “received pronunciation” (RP) has left her unemployable in television.

The veteran presenter joked that she “doesn’t tick modern boxes” and blamed the “political correctness brigade” on the perception of accents having changed.

One fan recently took to social media platform X to suggest Jan would be suited to voiceover work. She replied: “Thank you but you are a lone voice and I am small fry.

 “I’m old, speak RP English and don’t tick the PC boxes. Have given up even trying.”

Leeming added that the English language was “being mangled” on television, claiming the decline of traditionally well-spoken speech was “gathering pace”.

She continued: “Totally accept accents unless they are so pronounced the speaker is unintelligible to the masses outside their region.”

She did not mention any particular presenters in her series of posts. However, Leeming did say times had also changed in what presenters could do when off-air at the BBC.

She added that newsreaders “were not paid the stratospheric sums they get today and definitely weren’t allowed to do anything commercial”.

She added: “Very different today eg Lineker,” acommpanied by an angry face emoji.

Leeming’s comments come in the same week University Challenge presenter Amol Rajan admitted he had to change the way he pronounced the letter H – switching from “haitch” to “aitch”.

Leeming, once considered one of the Beeb’s most popular newsreaders continued: “So many teachers and parents were not taught proper grammatical English so what do you expect? I loathe hearing our beautiful language mangled, especially by on-screen presenters. And that is gathering pace.”

Her remarks came in the same week

Amol Rajan, the BBC presenter, admitted having to change the way he pronounced the letter H from “haitch” to “aitch”.

“So many teachers and parents were not taught proper grammatical English so what do you expect?” said Leeming, who was once one of the BBC’s most popular newsreaders.

“I loathe hearing our beautiful language mangled, especially by on-screen presenters. And that is gathering pace.”

Responding to a follower who said he disliked the use of “can I get” instead of “may I have”, Leeming said: “I feel the same but we have totally lost the battle. [I] have given up even here [on X] of complaining about bad grammar and poor speech.

“PC [political correctness] brigade have made it totally acceptable — even to be preferred — not to speak well.

“[I] am going to practise nuffink, beher, finking, Fursday, we was, etc.”

Leeming was a newsreader on BBC News between 1980 and 1987, having previously worked for Granada Television in Manchester.

She published an autobiography in 2003 and appeared in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! in 2006.

Rajan, 40, does not speak with RP in the way all BBC presenters and disc jockeys once did.

RP is often alternatively referred to as “BBC English”, so widespread was its use in the corporation’s TV and radio output for most of 20th century.

Rajan, who is also a presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme, said he was changing the way he pronounces “H” after University Challenge viewers complained. Writing in a blog post for the BBC about what he has learnt since taking over from Jeremy Paxman, he said: “All my life I’ve pronounced it ‘haitch’, dimly aware that I was getting it ‘wrong’. Everyone I grew up with says ‘haitch’. My mates say ‘haitch’. But, dear reader, I’m here to tell you: it’s ‘aitch’.”

Other BBC broadcasters who say “haitch” on air include radio presenters Nick Grimshaw and Sara Cox from Greater Manchester, as well as TV’s Dara O’Briain and Graham Norton.

Chris Mason, the BBC’s political editor, has a marked Yorkshire accent, which he says has helped him get jobs at Broadcasting House.

Leeming responded to a follower who said they disliked “can I get” instead of “may I have” by saying they have “totally lost the battle” and that she has “given up” complaining about bad grammar. 

She added: “PC [political correctness] brigade have made it totally acceptable, even to be preferred, not to speak well. [I] am going to practise nuffink, beher, finking, Fursday, we was, etc.”

Leeming was a newsreader at the BBC between 1980 and 1987, having previously worked for Granada Television in Manchester. She appeared on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in 2006.

The RP accent is often referred to by linguists as “BBC English” because of its widespread use at the broadcaster. However, in recent years its political editor Chris Mason has said his Yorkshire accent is something he says helped him get jobs at the BBC.

Via

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