Profiling the indefatigable Ian Boyne

Profiling the indefatigable Ian Boyne

The longest programme of its kind on local television

BY PATRICK FOSTER Sunday Observer staff reporter

Sunday, February 19, 2012

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A quarter century is a long time by any measure, more so when it's used in the context of a weekly TV show.

And, in Jamaica's media landscape where the production graveyard is littered with defunct programmes, TVJ's Profile has withstood the time-test, and today celebrates its 25th year.

Profile, hosted by Ian Boyne over its entire life span, has copped top ratings in media surveys every single of its 25 years, according to the veteran journalist.

"We have never been behind in that slot," he told the Sunday Observer in an interview.

In terms of years, Profile is surpassed only by TVJ's Schools Challenge Quiz, at 40. However, the comparisons stop there, as the quiz show is seasonal and airs for only a few months each year, with alternating quizmasters.

Interestingly, at its inception, Profile was given a sceptical three months on air, founded on uncertainties about how the viewing public would accept such a TV show. Actually, there were no similar programmes around in Jamaica at the time, with few local productions included in the TV line-up.

"When I brought the idea to Lois Gayle, who was then programmes manager at JBC, she said we (JBC) would give it three months to see how it turned out," Boyne recalled.

"Twenty-five years later we are still going on," said Boyne. "It's not that Profile is on the air merely surviving, it is still going strong. It has always been number one," he added.

On February 22, 1987 Boyne aired the first episode of Profile with former GraceKennedy boss, Carlton Alexander as guest and since then there has never been a rerun in its 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm slot on Sundays.

"Some guests have been on more than once over the life of the show, but never a repeat of a previous interview. I have never missed a show to my recollection."

That's a mammoth 1,300 shows non-stop with a new guest each week, and with that many episodes not many prominent Jamaicans either in public or private life, have been excluded from Profile.

Lisa Hanna at 18 years old, Dudley Thompson, Butch Stewart, Rex Nettleford -- the list of successful or outstanding Jamaicans who have faced Boyne's incisive interviews on Profile is impressive.

One of the few who got away was the interviewer's delight and media darling, the late Prime Minister Michael Manley.

"My work represents an important repository," said Boyne. "So it's a major disappointment that I never had him on tape."

That short list also includes Whitney Houston and Diana Ross.

"I would have loved to interview Diana Ross, I am a great fan of her music, and Whitney is another person I would have liked to interview," he said. Ironically Houston died the week of the Sunday Observer interview with Boyne.

Boyne's guests, however, have included other international stars, American actor Wesley Snipes and singer Dionne Warwick coming readily to mind.

He speaks passionately about his Profile interview with Una James, mother of the infamous sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, which ended up on the front page of the Washington Post and had major US networks vying to purchase the edition. "Stone Phillips' Dateline bought the rights for that show," Boyne recalled, leaving the Jamaican journalist with a "substantial" payday. "That was a signficant milestone."

Just a few days before taping Profile's 1,301 episode, Boyne reminisced, recounting vividly when and why he embarked on such a journey.

"I started Profile in my twenties," he said. "When you look at the old clips there is the afro, and no grey hairs."

Sharing that his first love was clinical psychology, Boyne said he conceptualised Profile to explore and expose the thinking behind successful individuals.

"I wanted to show what was different about them that brought them to the top of their game, what propelled them. I saw Profile as a means of inspiring people, to reach hundreds of thousands of people with the same message. I want them to know how they too can succeed," he explained. "Whatever the human mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve; that is the mantra of Profile."

Given his extensive and successful work in electronic media, Boyne surprisingly reveals that his real love is print, not television, referring to his weekly column in the Sunday Gleaner.

"I'm really a print person," he said. "It gives me the opportunity to apply the full range of my skills, and allows nuances that TV does not permit. I was never trained for TV."

"What is interesting is that I started my journalism career writing profiles. I have been doing profiles from day one".

Boyne, who has since received the Commander of the Order of Distinction (CD) for his work in journalism, has gone through changes, even if only physical, over the 25-year period. But Profile, its substance and presentation remain intact -- the probing interviews, the simple set (nothing to detract from the stories being told) and the unending stretch of interesting personalities whose gripping life stories keep the audience tuned in week after week.

"It's just talking heads," Boyne quipped, reminding that it is against sound professional judgement to produce an interview programme without props and an attractive set.

Throughout the years the most visible change has been merely a switch in name from JBC's Profile to TVJ's, reflecting new ownership of the station in 1997.

"We have not done much in terms of how it is produced. We depend on the strength of the conversation," said Boyne.

"When you look at other programmes, they are better produced, I don't depend on props to do well," he added.

He instead credits the longevity of Profile on the quality of guests over the years, his interviewing skills as well as his production team. "I must pay tribute to men like Louis Burke, Clevans Wilson, Ruddy Matherson, they keep me going," said Boyne.

Kay Osbourne, former head of TVJ, who inherited Profile when she took the helm eight years ago, summed up the show's success simply: "This one has hit a sweet spot. There is not another like it."

According to Osbourne, who recently departed from TVJ, reviews are often done and changes made to a TV programme. "Maybe the time slot, maybe the host. There was nothing to change about Profile."

"It's a very comfortable programme," she added, "both the selection of personalities who have been profiled and the engagement between host and subject."

Boyne and Profile have been soldiering on for half of Jamaica's life as an independent nation, the longest running show hosted by a single moderator speaking with personalities from all walks of life.

"Ian has turned Profile into an institution for Sunday afternoon viewers," commented Cliff Hughes, prominent newsman and colleague of Boyne.

"What I admire about how Ian does his work is how keen he is to strike a balance and delve into all sides of a story. He has the ability to get the best people to say a lot. If he wasn't able to, he would not be around for 25 years," said Hughes.

Boyne's exemplary interviewing skills, however, were not enough to unearth the deceit of one guest some years ago.

"A guy who claimed to have been trained at MIT was on the show," Boyne recalled. "Paul Chen Young had employed him at Eagle and it later came out that his credentials were fabricated."

Boyne quickly asserted that such cases of deception on Profile are, however, very few and far between.

"People generally speak the truth on the show. It's a small society and things will come out. He was able to do that because he was not a Jamaican and had a way out, he could leave the island," Boyne said in reference to the MIT fraudster.

Profile's 25th anniversary edition today highlights the story of Arthur Richards, a poor Kingston youth who suffered abuse from his father, receiving this first pair of shoes at 13 years old.

His story will tell how he rose to prominence after migrating, eventually working at leading US aircraft maker, Boeing.

"That's what my programme has been about for 25 years," Boyne declared.


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