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UTV stars forced to apply their own make-up as cutbacks bite

Broadcaster confirms cosmetic specialists are no longer being used

By Margaret Canning

Published 08/10/2016

UTV chat show host Pamela Ballantine
UTV chat show host Pamela Ballantine

It was "like a confessional" where secrets could be confided, as well as a safe place where warring politicians could chat like old friends while getting their faces done.

But as the winds of change sweep through Northern Ireland broadcaster UTV following its £100m takeover by ITV this year, the domain of the make-up chair is no more.

While there are 43 job cuts to come in the UTV premises of Havelock House, as revealed in the Belfast Telegraph this week, there has also been a more practical adjustment for presenters, reporters and continuity announcers to make.

The broadcaster has confirmed that the on-screen team on all in-house productions, from UTV Live to Pamela Ballantine's chat show, apply their own make-up.

A spokeswoman confirmed that two casual make-up artists who had tended to guests and presenters for the main 6pm UTV Live news programme and the former 10.30pm current affairs show, UTV Live Tonight - which has now been axed - were no longer being used.

A spokeswoman said UTV had provided make-up workshops for all presenting staff who wished to attend, "although most on-screen staff already apply their own make-up for news bulletins and reporting tasks".

She added: "This system currently works very well in all of the English and Welsh ITV News regions and has for many years.

"Viewers will not notice any difference on-screen."

It is understood that producers will be armed with powder puffs for shine-prone male guests, although female guests are advised to come in wearing their own.

One insider said it was "a real shame" the make-up department had gone. She disclosed that the girls worked miracles with presenters and guests, covering up spots, wrinkles and dark circles.

"They were all skilled and trained professionals who took pride in their work," the source explained. "It's all very well for men to dab a powder puff over a shiny face, but most women would hate to go on TV, under strong and unforgiving studio lights, without full make-up."

She added that make-up artists also played a dual role, and were often able to calm the nerves of a guest before a live show.

"Their domain was like the confessional," the insider explained. "A bit like the hairdresser's chair, people open up and the girls would have been privy to a lot of secrets over the years. But they were always very discreet."

And she said being in a make-up room before a political debate was insightful, as politicians "chatted to each other like old friends while getting their faces done". "You would hear far more interesting news in there than you ever would in the studio," the source added.

Another former contributor reminisced about spending 10 minutes to get their make-up done before going on-screen. "It was always much heavier than your usual make-up, and you'd look like a China doll at the end of it," they explained.

"But that was because the studio lights made you look paler. As the make-up artist used to tell me, that meant you'd need more base and more blusher to stop you looking washed out with the studio lights."

UTV this week confirmed that 43 support jobs are go to at Havelock House, though eight people will be able to put themselves forward for redeployment opportunities in sales, production and news traineeships.

There are currently 138 staff in UTV - meaning around 30% of the workforce is at risk of redundancy.

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