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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 17:07 GMT
50 Facts about Panorama
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Panorama, here are 50 quirky facts about the current affairs flagship that you may not have already known. They were provided courtesy of former Panorama reporter Richard Lindley's book Panorama - 50 Years of Pride and Paranoia.

1: The first edition of Panorama was broadcast at 8.15pm on Wednesday, 11 November 1953.

2: The format was originally a 45 minute fortnightly magazine programme covering around five items.

The first interviewee on the programme was a fish importer called George Dawson
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3: However, since its re-launch on 19 September 1955, the programme has been broadcast weekly, and since the first half of the Seventies it has covered one major issue per programme.

4: Panorama is the longest running current affairs programme in the world.

5: The first edition of Panorama was very nearly the last; following a series of hitches Cecil McGivern, the Controller of Television Programmes, immediately cancelled the next edition, taking the programme off the air for a month.

6: Almost half of the adult viewing public watched the very first Panorama in 1953 (There were 4 million TV licence holders in the UK by 1954)

7: The initial programme budget was 613 a week. This enabled the hospitality cupboard to be sufficiently stocked with whisky, gin, French vermouth, sherry, lager, light ale and a few soft drinks.

8: The first Editor of Panorama was Dennis Bardens; the current Editor is Mike Robinson.

9: Andrew Miller Jones produced the first Panorama. Other Producers over the years have included Charles Wheeler and Catherine Dove, Panorama's first ever female Producer.

10: As neither Dennis Bardens nor Andrew Miller Jones had experience of studio direction, BBC Drama Director Alan Bromly was assigned on the day of transmission to direct what was by any standard an extremely complicated magazine programme.

On 4 February 1957 Panorama broadcast the birth of a baby for the first time on television
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11: Patrick Murphy, one of the great newspaper journalists of the time and good friend of Winston Churchill, presented the first ever Panorama.

12: The first interviewee on the programme was a fish importer called George Dawson, who was interviewed as a 'personality' by Pat Murphy.

12: After Panorama's disastrous start, Max Robertson - an experienced BBC Reporter and television commentator - was enlisted to present the second programme, which was aired on 9 December 1953.

13: The longest-serving Panorama Reporter, Tom Mangold worked on the programme for a quarter of a century, from 1976 until 2001.

14: Other Reporters for the programme have included Richard Dimbleby, Chris Chataway, Robin Day, Ludovic Kennedy, Robert Kee, John Morgan, James Mossman, David Dimbleby, Julian Pettifer, Jeremy Paxman, Fiona Bruce, Martin Bashir, John Ware, Fergal Keane, David Dimbleby, Jane Corbin, John Simpson, Peter Taylor, Sarah Barclay, Nick Witchell, Brian Hanrahan, Michael Buerk, Peter Snow, James Naughtie, Gavin Hewitt, Peter Sissons and Martyn Lewis.

15: David Dimbleby presented his first Panorama on 11 November 1974, 21 years to the day after the programme began, and just nine years after his father's death.

One famous name who was turned down for a job at Panorama was a young Jeffrey Archer. He was described as 'a whipper-snapper trying to bullshit his way in' by then editor Paul Fox
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16: Grace Wyndham Goldie, who launched the new Panorama in September 1955, attempted to get the name of the programme changed. However, Cecil McGivern recognised that the Panorama brand was by then too valuable to be replaced.

17: During this time, Panorama's concept was to open a 'window on the world', with Richard Dimbleby at hand in the studio in order to help viewers make sense of things.

18: In the first few months after its re-launch the programme covered unemployment in Northern Ireland, the housing shortage in Britain, and the situation in the Middle East. The topics that Panorama reported on Monday evenings often made the headlines of Tuesday's papers.

19: Woodrow Wyatt enjoyed a whirlwind career as Panorama's first regular Current Affairs Reporter.

20: However, his relationship with the BBC was severely damaged when in 1958 he wrote a book, in which the BBC claimed he had broken his contract by writing offensive things about the Director General.

21: The Irish playwright, Brendan Behan, is reputed to have slurred an expletive beginning in 'F' and ending in 'K' whilst drunk on live television during a notorious Panorama interview which took place in June 1956.

22: Following the incident, Producer Charles Wheeler was only spared from being sacked after he insisted that he had done his best to avoid the situation by pouring the remaining hospitality gin and whisky down the sink.

The Goodies got inspiration from the unlikely source of Panorama
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23: On 4 February 1957 Panorama broadcast the birth of a baby for the first time on television. Despite the then Director General, Sir Ian Jacob, sending in a team to ensure that the programme was edited to show nothing more than a baby's head, the BBC was condemned for 'the worst display of taste ever'.

24: Monday 1 April 1957 provided Panorama with the opportunity to play a classic April Fool's Day joke on the viewing public. Cameraman Charles de Jaeger carefully draped 20 pounds of cooked spaghetti on to laurel bushes before shooting a silent film, which featured smiling peasant girls 'harvesting' the pasta. In his usual authoritative style, Richard Dimbleby then reported on the fictitious process of growing, collecting, drying and packing spaghetti.

25: By 1958, one in four adults was watching Panorama every Monday night.

26: Editor Paul Fox was auditioning hopeful reporters for the programme in August 1962 when he came across a young man he described as being too brash and without any sufficient experience. He was, according to Fox, 'a whipper-snapper trying to bullshit his way in'. The would-be reporter was none other than Jeffrey Archer.

27: Panorama's distinctive theme music is Today It's You composed by Francis Lai.

28: Panorama has always had a habit of getting up the noses of those in power. In 1973 the Shah of Iran was furious when he discovered that the programme was planning a report on how Iran was using its oil wealth to obtain more military equipment than it required to protect itself. As a result, John Bierman - the BBC's Correspondent based in Iran - was thrown out of Tehran, despite having no involvement in the report.

The only condition made by the Princess was that she would be allowed to inform the Queen herself about the interview that she had given
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29: The Shah was not the only person who was outraged by the report. The British Government was extremely angry due to the fact that a great deal of new weaponry was coming to Britain from Iran. The programme caused a great deal of trouble for the Foreign Office, and for the BBC.

30: When comedians Bill Oddy and Graeme Garden found themselves stuck for ideas for their TV show the Goodies, they often drew up a list of subjects which they thought Panorama might cover, and based their sketches on them.

31: Though most remembered for his report on Diana, Princess of Wales, Martin Bashir attracted a great deal of attention - as well as writs - for two other programmes that he had made for Panorama. One of these was 'The Manager', a report on Terry Venables' business activities at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

32: Bashir was first put in touch with Princess Diana by her brother, Earl Spencer, who was helping the Reporter with his enquiries on security issues affecting the Royal Family.

33: The world famous interview with Diana was recorded on 5 November 1995, when Reporter Martin Bashir, Producer Mike Robinson and Cameraman Tony Poole secretly visited Diana's home at Kensington Palace.

34: Jim Moir, the BBC's official royal liaison person, and BBC Chairman Marmaduke Hussey were not told about the proposed programme. It was feared that by knowing about the interview they would be placed in difficult positions - especially Hussey, whose wife was Lady Susan Hussey, lady-in-waiting to the Queen.

Panorama had to fight two High Court Actions in order for the 'Corruption of Racing' programme to be broadcast
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35: The following week, Editor Steve Hewlitt, Controller of Editorial Policy Richard Ayre, and the Head of Weekly Television Current Affairs Programmes Tim Gardam, assembled a secret hideaway at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne in order to view the footage.

36: During the editing of the exclusive interview, security guards were present, and the final transmission tape was kept under 24 hour surveillance in order to avoid any leaks.

37: Whilst Diana had not asked to see the questions that she was to be asked, it is believed that she was acutely aware of the ground that the interview would cover.

38: The only condition made by the Princess was that she would be allowed to inform the Queen herself about the interview that she had given. Once Diana had told Bashir she had broken the news to the Palace, BBC Secretary Michael Stevenson telephoned Chairman Marmaduke Hussey in order to put him in the picture.

39: When the interview was broadcast on 20 November 1995, Bashir's scoop saw Panorama achieve its highest ever audience - with a record 22.8 million viewers tuning in to watch Diana's revelations.

40: Panorama is famous for its controversial investigative reports, such as the 'Corruption of Racing' in October 2002, for which Panorama had to fight two High Court Actions in order for the programme to be broadcast. 'The Asylum Game', Claudia Murg and John Ware's six month investigation into Britain's asylum system in July 2003, was singled out for criticism by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

41: Some of the greatest Panorama scoops have been reported under the toughest and most volatile of conditions. In 1970 Alan Hart was in Jordan when civil war broke out and the entire region was on the edge of catastrophe. Despite the fact that print and television journalists were being swiftly flown to safety, Hart persuaded Cameraman Bernard Hesketh to stay behind with him and they secured an interview with King Hussein of Jordan.

42: Over the years there have been many successful co-operative pairings. Producer John Penycate's regular collaborator was Reporter Tom Mangold, and from the late Seventies until the early Eighties the duo made a remarkable contribution to the programme. The stories that they produced were both important and exciting, covering issues such as the Cold War, drug companies, penal policy, and the activities of shadowy security services.

Reporter Jane Corbin finished dubbing her commentary to a film, before going straight to hospital to give birth
Fact 48

43: Panorama is regularly awarded with the British television industry's top awards. In 2001 alone it received a total of eight awards, which included the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Single Documentary, and RTS Journalism Awards for Home Current Affairs Programme and Programme of the Year for 'Who Bombed Omagh?' John Ware was named Journalist of the Year by the RTS for his investigative work on issues such as Omagh and the forensic examination of health service statistics.

44: The programme has also won prestigious international awards - including an Emmy, the George Peabody Award, and the Monte Carlo Awards.

45: The first female Panorama Editor was Glenwyn Benson, who was appointed in March 1992.

46: She got off to a shaky start when she proclaimed that "It wouldn't matter if only five people watched, it's a symbol to the country that the BBC considers the subject we're covering is important".

47: However, before long Benson was credited for reviving Panorama, as a result of her willingness to cover subjects that ordinary people felt were relevant to their lives.

48: Reporter Jane Corbin had both her children whilst reporting for the programme. She once ran for a plane with a coat wrapped around her in an attempt to conceal the fact that she was eight months pregnant. Later at 1am she finished dubbing her commentary to a film, before going straight to hospital to give birth to her baby by Caesarean section at lunchtime the following day. Not surprisingly, she missed her film which transmitted later that evening!

49: Since October 2000, Panorama has been broadcast on Sunday evenings and it now goes out 32 times per year - with four of these programmes being hour-long weekday specials.

50: In 1993 Panorama's 'Babies on Benefit' programme was the most complained-about programme of the year on the BBC.



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