Ah, bellissimo – belligerent bella donnas bearing news

 Published in Sydney Morning Herald

Bring on the hair-flicking, frowns and flirting, says Julie Ihle. It’s a sure-fire way of educating us all in current affairs.

Every day, at 6.55am on SBS, a woman with straight, white-blonde hair, a movie-star pout and an open-necked shirt that looks as though it has been put on in too much of a hurry flicks her hair, flirts and frowns aggressively at the camera, while making love to it.

The show is the syndicated Italian World News, Telegiornale, and it’s the sort of TV viewing that is, well, very Italian. There is not a chair in sight, so the newsreader is standing up, and she does not even seem to be reading the news from the autocue. It’s more like an aggressive conversation, bordering on an argument. There’s the belligerent hissing of vowels, there are frowns, there are violent hand movements gesturing to the next story, there’s a sly grin just when you’re not expecting it and there’s the long, blonde hair and clothes that look as though she didn’t spend last night at home.

It’s all in Italian so I don’t understand a thing, but I presume it’s all real. There are pictures of Dubya and the Middle East, so I guess it’s at least vaguely current. But, in a sense, you don’t really watch it for the news. The mode of delivery makes it more like entertainment TV and, for 6.55am, that’s no mean feat.

It’s a shame that here in Australia there are no marginally non-plastic newsreaders. Hendo and Ross Symonds have been around since forever, and couldn’t flick their hair even if they had any of their own.

Ann Sanders and Sandra Sully are cutting-edge for Australia in that they are women, but, let’s face it, they’re boring. Chris Bath might be interesting but, with the current news-script, we’ll never know, and Tony Eastley couldn’t possibly offend anyone.

I do not believe for one moment that Australians are any less unscripted or sexy than Italians. We are the culture that gave the world Kylie, for Christ’s sake. We are the nation whose prime minister went for a dip and didn’t come back. Let’s face it, when we choose to we can ooze schmooze and sadism just as well as those remnants of the Roman empire. Our problem is that our system of newsreading, a bad combination of the British and American, is poker-faced.

The whole newsreading etiquette in this country needs updating. We need some characters. They don’t need to say anything different, they just need to effortlessly shrug their shoulders and learn how to deliver a decent scowl. They need some training in how to gesture heatedly and glower at the camera. They need to know how to brush their hair out of their eyes in one fabulously fluid motion and, at the end of it all, as the weather credits roll, dish out a seductive hint of a smile that invites viewers to tune in to tomorrow’s news.

And I guarantee that there would be a tomorrow. If we had Italian-esque newsreaders, we would be the best-informed society on Earth. In fact, we truly would be the knowledge nation. We’d be up to speed on local events and have our head around the latest international crises. What’s more, we would save time, as we would have had our fix of trashy entertainment for the night, so could get on with the rest of our lives without pesky interruptions from the TV. Malcolm in the Middle would have to find some other country to annoy and Ally McBeal could go away and get married and put on weight.

Italian newsreaders should be the new Australian industry standard. The current ones should be put to pasture and given jobs sending letters to 60 Minutes or writing the script for Harry’s Practice.

I’m not saying it would happen overnight. Australians would need to be educated in how to interpret this new brand of news, as it would take some getting used to. Initially, there may need to be some censorship warnings before the news, alerting us to adult themes and some coarse language. But the benefits would far outweigh the occasional coarse language or disturbingly smouldering look. Australians would be the most informed people on the planet, our collective IQ would go up 60 points, we’d be able to discuss the news the next day at the office water cooler and we’d finally lose our intellectual cultural cringe.

And just think of the ratings.