Tellytrack have appointed the award-winning retired television personality Martin Locke to source, train and develop new television presenters in a move that is bound to rattle a few cages. While the vastly experienced Locke’s focus will be on KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern and Western Cape, the general upliftment of professional standards is bound to have a knock-on effect across the board.
Phumelela Media Executive Ken Rutherford was responding this week to questions following the appearance of two new faces in the Western Cape on Wednesday. Jockey Vicky Minnot and lifelong racing enthusiast Mark Van Deventer made their on-course debuts in front of the cameras. The initial reviews and reactions from punters appear to have been very positive.
The dynamic and straightforward Rutherford is a pleasure to interview and has opened many doors to renewed transparent media relationships with his willingness to shoot from the hip and say what needs to be said.
He was quick to point out that the days of amateurism are long over and that viewers demanded professionalism. He went on to say that any television channel also needed to utilise new faces to energise and keep things fresh. No job was guaranteed and a new age of competition had been introduced.
“ Also I believe that working with two people on-course works so much better. It makes for better television than a solo presenter. The feedback from punters is that it is more entertaining, with the presenters developing a rapport with each other that makes for a better show. For Saturday, Sunday meetings and our night meetings, it is intended to have two presenters on-course.”
Rutherford clarified that Locke’s mandate was to provide refresher analysis of all current presenters and to provide an independent view of the entire on-course presentation.” Martin was a legend and one of the best of his time. Technology may have moved on, but the fundamentals don’t change. His input is valued and I believe we have already seen the benefits.”
Rutherford said that following Locke’s assessments, Tellytrack had introduced Mark and Vicky in the Western Cape, Gavin Venter in Port Elizabeth and race-caller Sheldon Peters was helping out in KZN. He also said that the young commentator Alistair Cohen had been adding great value from many perspectives in Gauteng and in the short-term the fresher more dynamic appeal was already being felt.
Other than Alvin August and Cecil Mthembu, there were not a lot of people of colour in the equation and we taxed Rutherford about affirmative action. “ There is clearly a need to satisfy certain demographic considerations unique to SA and this is something that I am conscious of. It is receiving ongoing priority and it is an aspect that needs to be addressed by Tellytrack.”
On the subject of the slices of the shift cake being thinner with the introduction of new faces, Rutherford said that there was enough work for the established presenters and for the new ones being introduced. He admitted though that he felt that any increased competition for shifts could only be positive in raising standards and quality of the product. In saying that, if there is more competition for shifts on Tellytrack as a result of the introduction of new faces, that surely can only be a good thing?
“At the end of the day there needs to be a professional, consistent presentation of racing to our local and international customers and the presenters that provide high quality work deserve to get rewarded more than others. I do not believe that longevity should guarantee selection. The onus is on quality of work and not simply being familiar. This point is true not just for the presenters on Tellytrack but throughout all production roles. Television is a cut-throat industry and personalities are made and then quickly forgotten. Another point is the mix of presenters and the varied approaches one might use compared to another. The case of Mark and Vicky in the Western Cape is a good illustration of this – Mark is highly analytical in his approach to tipping; a Professor of Punting. Vicky relies more on her ‘eye’, watching the horses in the parade ring and the canter-past. Different perspectives – let the punters in the shops or at home take their pick as to which approach is more relevant.”
The petite and pretty Vicky Minnot hails from KZN. She is 26 years old and was riding horses before she could walk. She is well known to racegoers having completed her apprenticeship in KZN and the Western Cape. A balanced rider who seldom used the whip, she was most famously associated with the Windrush flyer Diana’s Choice.
She underwent surgery earlier this year and in the recovery period admitted to mulling over her future as a woman in a tough world: “ Riding horses has always been my first love, but I also need to consider other realities – like the fact that I cannot race ride for ever and who knows what the future holds. Television is one area where I can utilise my knowledge, skills and passion to good effect. I am going to give it my all and I absolutely thrive on the excitement and adrenaline of live television. I have received so much guidance too from Martin Locke and the existing presenters.”
Mark Van Deventer is a well- known face to anybody who has attended racing in Cape Town over the past 25 years. The 46 year old is a Humanities graduate from the University of Cape Town, where he majored in psychology and politics.
He says that he has continually sought to expand his knowledge through studying, reading widely and travelling all over the world. His working experiences have been ‘eclectic’, in his own words. He was involved in retailing, journalism and sports coaching, before moving into the tourism sector 15 years ago. While most of his activity has entailed facilitating private tours in and around Cape Town, his sports travel has also seen him managing large groups in places as diverse as India, Australia and the West Indies.
We wish the new Cape duo everything of the best and it is exciting times indeed that lie ahead.