Nationwide (TV series): Wikis


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Nationwide mandala.jpg
Nationwide's "mandala" logo, introduced in 1972.
Format News and Current affairs
Created by Derrick Amoore
Presented by Michael Barratt (1969–1977)
Frank Bough (1972–1982)
Sue Cook (1980–1983)
David Dimbleby (1982)
Bernard Falk (1972–1978)
James Hogg (1972–1983)
Richard Kershaw (1980–1983)
Sue Lawley (1972–1975, 1977–1983)
Bob Langley (1970–1972)
Laurie Mayer
Esther Rantzen (1970–1972)
Hugh Scully (1978–1983)
Valerie Singleton (1972–1978)
John Stapleton (1975–1980)
Richard Stilgoe (1972–1978)
Bob Wellings (1971–1979)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Editor(s) Michael Bunce (1970–1975)
John Gau (1975–1978)
Hugh Williams (1978–1981)
Roger Bolton (1981–1983)
Location(s) London
Running time 50 minutes
Original channel BBC One
Original run September 9, 1969 – August 5, 1983
Preceded by BBC Evening News
Followed by Sixty Minutes

Nationwide was a BBC News and Current affairs television series broadcast on BBC One each weekday following the early evening news. It followed a magazine format, combining political analysis and discussion with consumer affairs, light entertainment and sports reporting. It ran from 9 September 1969 to 5 August 1983,[1] when it was replaced by Sixty Minutes. The long-running Watchdog programme began as a Nationwide feature.

The light entertainment was quite similar in tone to That's Life!. Eccentric stories featured skateboarding ducks and men who claimed that they could walk on egg shells. (In fact, the show's tendency to sidestep serious matters in favour of light pieces was famously spoofed in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, where the show, instead of reporting on the opening of the Third World War, chose to feature a story about a "theory" that sitting down in a comfortable chair rests one's legs). Richard Stilgoe performed topical songs.

The programme's famous brass and strings theme music The Good Word was composed by Johnny Scott.[2]

After the introduction and round-up, the BBC regions opted out for a twenty minute section for local news round ups (Midlands Today, Points West, Wales Today Look East etc.). Once they had handed back to Lime Grove Studios in London, the regions remained on standby to participate in feedback and two-way interviews to be transmitted across the whole BBC network.

The show was used in an influential cultural/media studies project at the University of Birmingham, known as The Nationwide Project. The name also provided inspiration to the former Co-operative Permanent Building Society who, in 1971 renamed themselves the Nationwide Building Society.


Thatcher On the Spot

Perhaps the most famous interview occurred in May 1983 during a general election special of its "On the Spot" feature. Mrs Diana Gould, a geography teacher from Cirencester, persistently challenged Margaret Thatcher about her ordering of the sinking of the General Belgrano when it was sailing away from the Falklands. Mrs Thatcher denied that the Belgrano had been sailing away, but Mrs. Gould quoted map references and continued to push her point across, encouraged - so the Conservative party claimed - by presenter Sue Lawley. When Mrs Thatcher asked her whether she accepted that the Belgrano had been a danger to British shipping when it was sunk, Mrs Gould told her that she did not. Thatcher then proclaimed that "I think it could only be in Britain that a British Prime Minister could be asked why she took action to protect our ships against an enemy ship that was a danger to our shipping", and was extremely angry about the BBC for allowing the question.[3] Thatcher's husband Denis lashed out at Roger Bolton, the editor of the programme, in the entertainment suite, saying that his wife had been "stitched up by bloody BBC poofs and Trots".[4] As a result, Thatcher became increasingly hostile to the BBC.

April Fool Reports

The production team at BBC Nationwide are also, arguably some of the more inventive of April Fool TV pranksters. The reports seems at start to be utterly genuine, yet gently stretched the viewer's belief until they could accept something that was utterly ludicrous. Many were reported around the world and are amongst some of the TV clips most sought by the public, yet have still never released on the market.

April Fool reports by Nationwide over the years included:-

- A mysterious research institute that turned out to be breeding dinosaurs in the woods. - A library where nothing worked properly as the builder had been holding the plans upside down and constructed it that way consequently. - New European legislation requiring standardisation of vegetables sizes. - A top cooking expert showing recipes for cooking with snow. - A family in a back street in Italy whose illicit production of nylon stockings in their sitting room was threatening the future profitability of the British textile industry.

Archive status

As a contemporary programme Nationwide was only recorded on broadcast videotape in the event of possible complaint or litigation; after a period of time tapes would be wiped and re-used although filmed reports were archived. Consequently only a few complete editions exist in their original form.

However, in his book The Television Heritage (1989), author Steve Bryant claimed that "a virtually complete collection of the BBC magazine programme Nationwide from 1971 to 1980" existed as domestic recordings.[5] He wrote:

"Already virtually doomed is material held on early domestic tape formats manufactured by Sony, Shibaden and Philips. The pictures from these tapes are very poor - indeed, the Sony and Shibaden reel-to-reel tapes are monochrome only - but some unique collections exist on these formats. Most significant is a virtually complete collection of the BBC magazine programme Nationwide from 1971 to 1980, mostly on Sony and Shibaden, but on Philips for the programmes after 1977. This collection is held by the NFA (National Film Archive) and represents the only copies of the complete programmes in existence.

The BBC has all the film reports and a small selection of pre-recorded video inserts, but the programmes themselves were live and were not recorded off-air. Neither the machinery nor the funds are currently available to save the contents of these tapes, so a valuable daily record of British life in the 70s, including a large number of live interviews with leading politicians and celebrities of the time, looks like being lost."[6]

But the British Film Institute website has stated more recently that "so far we have successfully dubbed 500 [Philips] N-1500 [tapes] as part of an HLF-Funded Nationwide preservation project"[7]


  • Let's Go Nationwide. BBC2, 1991. Transmitted as part of "The Lime Grove Story", 26 August 1991, marking the closing of the studios.
  • It's Time to Go Nationwide. BBC4, 2009. Shown 5 February 2009.


  1. ^ Jeff Evans, (1995) The Guinness Television Encyclopedia. Middlesex: Guinness. ISBN 0-85112-744-4
  2. ^ OFF THE TELLY: Factual/The Good Word
  3. ^ Michael Cockerell, (1988) Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television. page 238, London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-14757-7
  4. ^ BBC News | UK | TV's top 10 tantrums
  5. ^ When domestic video recorders had become available in the early 1970s, the BBC started making Programme as broadcast (PasB) recordings of most news and current affairs programmes - until then only audio recordings had been made for future editorial review purposes.
  6. ^ Bryant, Steve (1989). The Television Heritage.  
  7. ^ "Obsolete Technology". British Film Institute. 2003-07. Retrieved 2008-10-19.  

External links

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