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Last Updated: Monday, 27 October, 2003, 14:15 GMT
Panorama pioneer
by Dennis Bardens
Founding editor of Panorama

Dennis Bardens
Dennis Bardens' idea is still going strong
I had long put the suggestion for a magazine programme while I was at Focus, (a magazine programme on BBC Radio).

I realised that the same principles of Focus could be translated into television terms and eventually my idea of the programme was taken up.

It nearly didn't get off the ground - I was working on it for certainly a few months before my contract even arrived. There was no such thing as Panorama so they didn't know what to call me and they just put editorial assistant when the contract arrived.

My first thought was to go home in a huff, but then the press would say you'd fallen down on the job before it started.

I came up with the name Panorama one day after sitting in my office. I put up about 20 suggestions for titles, but each one I never really was wholly sold on until seeing this wonderful Panoramic view from my office. It was a very capacious office.

Falling flat

If journalism means anything, it means the pursuit of truth for truth's sake and damn the consequences and to hell with popularity
Dennis Bardens

The first programme didn't go down well. The big mistake they made was making us move the office from Alexandra Palace to Lime Grove in the middle of planning the first programme. It was a few houses knocked together and was absolute chaos. One fellow actually had six phones, I didn't have one.

The whole thing was a mess, and they couldn't even give us a studio to rehearse the thing before the day of transmission.

Another thing was the appointment, without consulting me, of a chap who could not be up to the job of being the presenter, Pat Murphy of the Daily Mail. It was unfair to blame him though. He hadn't seen any script. He'd never been in television.

I was also planning a scoop which fell flat. This was really a shame because it was going to go off with a bang. It was to be about brainwashing. I had traced a spy who had been arrested and had a mock trial and got a tape of his confession under duress.

However I had to lend them a tape recorder as one of the few freelance journalists who possessed a real one. It weighed 52lbs, with a joystick. So this precious tape would be on two 7" reels and you got a joy stick, north, south, east and west.

Speaking the truth

Dennis Bardens circa 1953
Dennis Bardens pictured in 1953

Well Pat Murphy had never seen a tape recorder. He had never seen the script. I told him what to do, but when it came he turned it backwards. All you could hear was Mickey Mouse and the whole symphony - the whole thing was burnt flat. And of course the rest of the programme never got off the ground again. The critics thought we'd all gone mad.

The television bosses went into a panic and took if off the air for a week or something. But it got smoothly airborne again and it was a good idea.

It's a very different programme from 50 years ago. I think the difference that I like least is the banging of drums. I like the bang, bang, bang, bang as though something terrific is going to come and then it's not so terrific as you thought it was.

I prefer my technique of softly, softly catchy monkey, and educe fact after fact after fact, in such a way that people know you're speaking the truth and form their own opinion. They may disagree with you wholly - let them. But at least let them be disagreeing about something of which they have a clear conception.

Important job

But Panorama does have a purpose. Its purpose is to make people think clearly and sensibly about the tremendous drama being played out around them.

What I hoped from Panorama, why I'd suggested it, and what I feel it can do is what Focus did, and that is, to focus attention on those matters which affect peoples' lives and futures in an intimate way.

They should know about it and know the truth from people who have no ulterior motive. In other words, no spin doctors, no politicians simply trying to ease their path to office.

In other words, if journalism means anything, it means the pursuit of truth for truth's sake and damn the consequences and to hell with popularity. That is what journalism is.

Panorama is an important programme. It has got an important job to do.

Dennis Bardens passed away in February 2004 at the age of 92. He was a prolific author having penned more than a dozen books including biographies of Princess Margaret and Winston Churchill. He was also a leading authority on the paranormal.

Panorama 'creator' passes away
10 Feb 04  |  Panorama



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