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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September 2003, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Panorama history
Panorama's April Fool's spaghetti harvest
Panorama hoodwinked viewers on April Fool's Day
Panorama, which celebrates 50 years on the air in November, is now the longest running current affairs television programme in the world.

It has, however, come a long way from its earliest incarnation as an attempt by its creators Dennis Bardens and Andrew Miller Jones to fashion a magazine format programme for television.

Panorama began life at 8.15pm on Wednesday, 11 November, 1953. It was planned to be fortnightly, but poor reviews led to it being immediately taken off the air by the controller of television programmes, Cecil McGivern, for a hurried revamp.

When it returned a month later, the original presenter was gone and BBC stalwart, Max Robertson, had taken his place.

And from that point on, Panorama began to make its mark.

Richard Dimbleby

The following year it broadcast its first in-depth single topic special programme - about the Hydrogen Bomb.

Grace Wyndham Goldie, one of the pioneers of current affairs television, relaunched the programme in 1955, with Richard Dimbleby now the main presenter.

His presence brought gravitas to the programme - but that didn't stop it pulling off one of the most memorable of television hoaxes, on April Fool's day, 1957 when an apparently serious account of spaghetti harvesting from trees in Switzerland fooled hundreds of viewers who called the BBC switchboards.

Duke of Edinburgh & Richard Dimbleby
The Duke of Edinburgh's interview was a television landmark
At the end of the 1950s Panorama brought in the second of its most famous presenters - Robin Day. From there, the programme went from strength to strength, particularly with its coverage of the Suez crisis in 1956.

Five years later, it created television history when it broadcast an interview with the Duke of Edinburgh, the first time a member of the Royal family had taken part in such an interview.

Panorama also won plaudits for its coverage of the Cuban Missile crisis a year later in 1962.

In 1969, the now famous Panorama theme tune, Aujourd'hui C'est Toi by Francis Lai, was first incorporated into the programme.

Angry reactions

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Panorama became a British institution, with stories covered on a Monday evening often making headlines and setting agendas in the newspapers the following day.

The programme secured interviews with Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and delved into the full range of domestic and international stories of the day.

In 1973, Panorama caused the BBC's correspondent in Iran to be thrown out of the country after the Shah of Iran discovered the programme was planning to report that he was using his country's oil wealth to obtain large amounts of military equipment. The unfortunate correspondent had nothing to do with the Panorama programme.

Princess Diana & Martin Bashir
Some 22.8m people saw the Princess Diana interview
A year later, in 1974, David Dimbleby followed in his father's footsteps and became a Panorama presenter, making his debut on 11 November, 1974 - the 21st anniversary of the programme.

Panorama's style of enquiring journalism did, on occasion, provoke angry reactions from the government of the day.

In May 1982, for instance, a major row with the Conservative government was precipitated by a programme about the Falklands War.

Three years later, the BBC appeared to take a risk by removing the programme from the Monday mid-evening slot it had occupied for 32 years, transmitting later in the evening, immediately after the 9 O'clock news.

But the gamble paid off and audience figures almost doubled over the next few years.

Enquiring journalism

In 1995 Panorama broadcast the most famous programme in its recent history - Diana, Princess of Wales, interviewed by Martin Bashir, and talking candidly and for the first time about her life and her marriage.

Panorama's highest ever audience, 22.8 million people, tuned in to witness Diana's revelations.

In 2000, the programme was moved again, and this time it wasn't just to a new time but to a different night. Its new home was to be at 10.15pm on Sunday. The decision proved highly controversial - provoking claims that it was the death knell of the programme.

But despite the change, Panorama is still in good health, still drawing average audiences of around 3 million, and it is still carrying on its proud tradition of high quality, enquiring journalism and investigations.

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