The dangers of down-the-line
November 18th, 2011
‘Down-the-line’ interviews are best avoided.
A down-the-line interview usually involves the TV or radio presenter in location A with you being interviewed in location B. The presenter is usually in a main centre studio. You will probably be in front of a microphone or camera in a more remote location.
The big difference with down-the-line is that you have to wear an earpiece (TV) or headphones (radio), and respond to questions without seeing the interviewer.
For TV, there's one more added pressure. You have to look straight at the camera. No wonder people get nervous.
Things often go wrong - especially on TV. You might not hear the questions. The earpiece might pop out. You may not realise you are live on air.
If you do encounter problems in the TV format, inform the presenter on air. Be specific e.g: "John, if you can hear me, I'm afraid I can't hear you." This is a clear instruction for the crew to investigate, (and hopefully correct the issue) or take you off air.
Talking down-the-line is a difficult format to master, even for professional reporters. As you can see in the photo above, people often look awkward trying to talk on TV while an uncomfortable ear piece is threatening to eject itself.
Down-the-line on radio is not so bad. But try to avoid down-the-line on TV. Instead, you could 1) insist on a pre-recorded interview, 2) offer to travel to a more convenient location, or 3) provide a written statement instead of a live appearance.