1 9 6 7 – 1 9 9 9 (UK)
TV broke new ground in July 1967 with the introduction of News At Ten – an extended (30 minute) late evening news programme covering the daily news stories and looking at important issues in much greater detail than their previous 12-minute bulletin, which had screened at 8:55 pm.
Two presenters were used so that late-breaking news could be fed to whichever newsreader was off-camera at the time.
The News At Ten team originally consisted of newsreaders Alastair Burnet, Andrew Gardner, Reginald Bosanquet and George Ffitch. Major correspondents were Sandy Gall, John Edwards, Richard Linley and Alan Hart, backed up in the studio by another team headed by Gerald Seymour.
The distinctive chimes of Big Ben opening each edition (called “the Bongs”) were, in fact, only included by default. A sound engineer should have faded them out but failed to do so, and the chimes stayed ever since.
The individualistic sign-off from reporters was introduced to show how international News At Ten was.
For the inaugural programme, they had teams as far afield as South Vietnam and Alabama, and the then Deputy Editor of ITN, David Nicholas, said: “We thought we’ll start this off in a way they’ll never forget. Then the Ford strike story broke and our first sign-off line was ‘Richard Dixon, News At Ten . . . Dagenham”.
Viewers loved the new look and style, and News At Ten became the first news programme to get into the top ten television ratings.
But those early days were pretty uncomfortable, crammed in a tiny studio in Kingsway House with poor air conditioning. There was a particularly hot summer in 1967 and it became so warm under the studio lights that the newscasters had buckets and trays of ice packed around their feet. Andrew Gardner, who read the first bulletin with Alastair Burnett, said: “It was so hot we even took our shoes and socks off”.
On 6 May 1971, ITN transmitted its 1000th edition of News At Ten, which was now the largest single news daily outlet in Britain, and was watched by more than 15 million viewers. Of the 1,000 programmes it had broadcast, 632 had appeared in the Top 20 list of the week’s most popular programmes.
Probably the best-loved of all News At Ten newsreaders was the late Reginald Bosanquet.
Reggie joined ITN in 1955, but it was his partnership with Andrew Gardner (pictured below) on News At Ten that endeared him to millions.
Gardner said he and Reggie were “a sort of Morecambe and Wise of the news”.
Reggie owned the most famous toupee on television and claimed he wore it for medical reasons. His slurred speech led to accusations of him being drunk on screen but, in fact, it was caused by his epilepsy and the drugs he took to control it.
The twice-divorced Bosanquet (pictured below) had a colourful private life and he was suspended for a month in 1976 following newspaper interviews by his ex-wife Felicity who had taken all the goods from his Kensington home. He eventfully resigned from News At Ten in 1979.
When News At Ten was finally axed in 1999 in order for primetime entertainment programming to air uninterrupted, there was a public outcry.
ITV reluctantly brought the programme back – under the name ITV News at Ten – in 2001, airing it for a minimum of three nights per week, but eventually replaced it with the ITV News at 10.30 in 2004.
It was not until January 2008 that News at Ten was reinstated to the ITV schedule.