Meet the Scot heard round the world working for top US news channel

Philip Banks has an audience of millions in the US from his cottage in north-east Scotland
Philip Banks has an audience of millions in the US from his cottage in north-east Scotland
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He is heard by more than 300 million television viewers across the United States every week, but the chances are that very few realise the voice belongs to a man broadcasting from the bedroom of his cottage in North-east Scotland.

Philip Banks is an announcer on the popular American news channel CNBC and the voice of trailers promoting forthcoming programmes.

To viewers it sounds as though he’s speaking from CNBC’s high-tech news studio in New York City, but the reality is that he’s speaking from a soundproof booth in his home in Portgordon, near Buckie.

Mr Banks, whose neutral British accent is described as “globally friendly”, is in high demand as an announcer. In addition to CNBC, he lends his voice to global film corporations, television production companies and has worked for networks including the BBC, CNN, and Sky.

Due to the possibility of unscheduled programme changes, Mr Banks, 58, has to wait till the last minute to record his trails. “They have a regular weekend show which they like to be promoted during their regular week day output so I have to get out of bed at 3am on Friday to record the trailer to attract an audience for Saturday morning,” he said. “No-one can believe that I do what I do,”

Mr Banks moved to Portgordon 16 years ago to be nearer his wife’s relatives and when the couple split he decided to stay.

“Luckily in my job you don’t need to be anywhere specific so here is as good a place as any until I get a better idea,” he said. “Me, my Border Collie Bess and a tumbledown cottage by the sea, life’s pretty good.”

Mr Banks studied law and economics at Oxford before working in insurance and investment management.

It was a chance encounter in a radio studio that set him thinking about the possibilities of a life outside the office nine to five. “My company at the time wanted to organise some radio sponsorship so I went along to sort things out,” he said.

“I was introduced to a BBC presenter and we sat in the studio together.

“While we were waiting, she indulged my curiosity and showed me what all the buttons were for, playing different commercials and voice clips for various bits and pieces.

“I was intrigued. Who were these people that lent their voices to all sorts of random products?

“I had a bit of a mad idea and on my next day off I phoned up a guy I knew who owned a recording studio. He usually did demos for hip bands but the two of us spent a whole afternoon larking around like schoolboys trying to get my voice to sound vaguely professional.

“In the end I walked away with a two-minute reel of me doing different voices and character work. Then, I phoned up the world and his wife.”

After a slow start. Mr Banks’ career started to take off. “My first TV promo was for BBC2. It’s a bit like getting a badge of honour – having the BBC on your CV leads to more big things,” he said.

Nowadays the bulk of his work is done in his second bedroom.

“It’s crammed with technology,” he said. “The term ‘home studio’ implies some degree of amateurism, but my stuff here needs to be as good as the tech studios in central London or LA.

“If it’s not, it will be immediately obvious and any recordings are unusable for professional firms looking for high-quality surround sound.”

Mr Banks’ recording sessions last anywhere from five minutes to five hours, as he reads scripts to producers who record him from thousands of miles away.

As the promotional voice for CNBC, logistics – and in particular, time zones – can be an issue.

Mr Banks will often find himself working in the middle of the night to fit the recording schedules of his North American clients. He works most days, churning out more than 900 sessions a year.

But despite the hard work, expense and at times unpredictability of the business, Mr Banks can’t see himself doing anything else.

“I love the invisibility of it,” he said. “Audience figures for Coronation Street are about eight million, and the cast are considered famous. My weekly audience is 300 million, yet no one knows who I am.”