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1962
An 'infantile' new offering
In November 1962 the Tonight programme produced a formidable offspring - That Was The Week That Was (TW3)

Three of the Tonight team had key roles in making the programme a reality: Donald Baverstock, Alasdair Milne, and Tonight's light entertainment producer, Ned Sherrin. For the audience, David Frost took centre stage.

Behind the cameras, it was Sherrin who was given the producer's role for the TW3 Saturday night mix of sketches and songs - characterised by a merciless portrayal of those in authority.

The audience loved it: within months, up to 10 million people were tuning in. Others were less enthusiastic. "Extremely left wing" was one Conservative Party view.

Its return for a second series in September 1963 brought complaints from the public that it was "infantile", "smutty" and "dreary" - though the Daily Mail wrote of its "awesome impregnable vitality".

Less than two months later, amid mounting controversy, it was announced that the series would end in December. The reason given in a BBC statement was that an election was pending.

In any event, before December the national mood had changed. Another of those defining moments in television history was provided in November by the assassination - and then the funeral - of President John F Kennedy. Satellites enabled hundreds of millions of people to share the same emotions, in front of their television sets.

The script being prepared for TW3 on the day after Kennedy's death was scrapped. The programme team instead came up with a tribute to Kennedy - "a show of reverence and respect", according to leading Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Senator Humphrey asked that the complete transcript be printed in the Congressional record.


Sir David Frost and TWTWTW team
1965
WATO livens up lunchtimes
There was more blood on the carpet at Broadcasting House in the autumn of 1965 - when The World At One took to the airwaves on 4 October. BBC news boss Donald Edwards was keen to get rid of what he called the "long, stilted" bulletins at key points in the radio schedule.

Five years earlier, the traditional nine o'clock news had disappeared amid public protests - to be replaced by a combination of news and current affairs an hour later. Now, the formal one o'clock bulletin was shortened - to make space for what Edwards described as a "lively news and discussion magazine". The "older radio newsmen" never forgave him, he says.

The first WATO - like so many others - was introduced by the rumbling tones of former Daily Mail editor William Hardcastle. The programme editor was the "maverick" Andrew Boyle, as he's remembered by a former member of his team, BBC director of radio Jenny Abramsky.

The programme was "irreverent", says Abramsky, and "fearless" in its approach to both the political establishment and the BBC establishment.

For Abramsky WATO established a pattern for daily "serious journalism" that would help shape programmes like Newsnight - challenging politicians, pulling no punches, and aiming to equip the listeners with the tools to make up their own minds.

Presented these days by Nick Clarke, WATO sees itself as "Britain's leading political programme" - "required listening in Westminster". Its sister programme, The World This Weekend, was launched on 17 September 1967. TW2 now promotes itself as "the radio equivalent of the heavyweight Sunday papers" - with James Cox as its main presenter.


WATO presenter William Hardcastle (sitting)
1968
Showing the world's true colours
The introduction of Newsroom, early in 1968, marked a significant step for BBC TV news. This was its first half-hour bulletin - going out at half-past-seven in the evening on BBC2.

Alexandra Palace had been debating how to make best use of the vastly increased amount of footage that was available from across the world as a result of the satellite revolution. Now, here was a chance to present some of the pictures that would not otherwise have been seen.

Within weeks, Newsroom chalked up another first - when it switched from black and white to colour.

In 1968, it was a world of momentous change. Soviet tanks moved into Czechoslovakia - and BBC news on both TV and radio was extended to give proper coverage. The Vietnam War continued - prompting demonstrations in London. Students battled on the streets of Paris. Martin Luther King was assassinated - as was Robert Kennedy (incidentally, bringing Radio 4's The World At One its biggest audience yet). The war in Nigeria went on. The Times spoke of "this lunatic year".

The problems facing the TV news editors, as the pictures poured in, were spelt out by the BBC chairman, Lord Hill. You could now "fill an entire bulletin with this kind of material", he told the Royal Television Society convention. If you did, the result onscreen was an impression of "even greater ferment" than was really the case.

For the TV newsreaders, the advent of colour meant having to take special care -with your appearance. To avoid causing problems for the engineers, suits were best worn beige; shirts were best worn in a light shade - but definitely not white; and faces were best worn pale.


Peter Woods presenting Newsroom
1969
Going Nationwide
The year 1969 saw man land on the moon - and BBC TV news land at Television Centre.

The final BBC One bulletin from Alexandra Palace was read on the night of Friday 19 September. On the Saturday, the early evening bulletin was broadcast from the Television Centre "spur" - the new wing that had been added to accommodate the newcomers.

This was not the only significant television development. Less than a fortnight earlier, Nationwide appeared for the first time - filling the early evening spot once occupied by Tonight.

The aim was to exploit the BBC's powerful regional network - within a national framework. The programme began with a local news bulletin - before "going Nationwide", with Michael Barratt in the Lime Grove studio in London.

To begin with, it went out on just three nights a week. But it switched to five nights in 1972. Sue Lawley, Hugh Scully and Frank Bough were among the many faces in front of the camera.

For many, its name remains associated forever with the "skateboarding duck" school of journalism. But Nationwide dealt too with the toughest stories of the day - such as Northern Ireland, where British troops had been deployed the month before the programme began.

It found itself on the front pages in 1983 after a live phone-in when Mrs Thatcher was taken to task over the Falklands by a caller from Cheltenham, Diana Gould.

The prime minister refused to say whether the Argentine warship, the Belgrano, had been sailing away from the action when it was sunk. Ms Gould demanded an answer. Mrs Thatcher is said to have been left looking "rattled". Those who heard it will not easily forget it, said a Guardian reader.

The final edition of Nationwide went out in that same year, on 5 August.


Michael Barrett and John Tusa
 
 

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