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Wonderful to be with you again

Not having noticed Nicholas Owen slip gracefully from his berth at ITN Towers, it was something of a shock to see that the silver-haired fop has taken on new employment at BBC News 24.

He’s usually on the afternoon shift with a rotating line-up of young women – perhaps hand-picked by Nick as part of his contract. To be fair he does a pretty decent job, but then he was doing a pretty decent job at ITN when most people weren’t, and now he’s up against competition of the calibre of Peter Sissons. Still, it’s a notable second wind for the man, and hence more than enough reason to muster a list of other newscasting comebacks:


“It came just at the right moment,” waxed the citrus-coloured charmer on being recalled from semi-retirement by Greg Dyke to read the TV-am news. “I’d been writing non-stop for six years. I felt I could do with having people around me for a while. Coming back was no great shock. Some people didn’t even know I’d gone!” He promptly signalled his change of direction by penning TV-am’s Big Book Of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s Royal Wedding. Among his contributions to the BFI’s One Day In The Life Of Television project in 1988 were details of a dream involving “Mike Morris being irritating, wanting to take some photo of me,” and his thoughts on…


…who retured from a post-TV-am wilderness to do the Six O’Clock News on the BBC in 1988. “She’s only doing three bulletins a week,” Gordon sniffed. “Very bourgeois of the Beeb to appoint her. Such impeccable tones and features so perfect are not right for the news, as wrong as spots and a squint. Interfere with the imparting of information.” Would, Gordon wondered, she get along with “Smuggins” (Martyn Lewis) or the “Poisoned Carrot”, aka “Twatchell”, aka Nicholas Witchell?


Gamely played along with Chris Evans’s fooling and Gaby Roslin’s fawning as the stand-in newsreader on The Big Breakfast When It Was Good. Later attempted, and pulled off, a double hello (unlike the double goodbye, which should never be essayed), courtesy of the ITN News Channel when the Iraq War began. It wasn’t her fault that said channel closed down overnight when “there wasn’t any news”.


Because ITN have clearly got so many well-known newsreaders, they can afford to let him go. Ditto…


Now acting as Kirsty Young’s deputy on Five News, and doing it fairly well. Just be thankful Alastair “Will read news for food” Stewart hasn’t followed his colleagues back behind the desk.


Dear God. What was the BBC thinking when it decided to promote Martyn Lewis and Phillip Hayton from the One O’Clock News and, in their place, appoint the two least telegenic, least affable and most grizzled veterans imaginable, Ed Stourton and John Tusa? At least the former made good as an excellent presenter of the Today programme. Tusa, though, could never and has never shaken off his grumpy bastard demeanour, always looking like reading the news was a huge personal inconvenience and then, with every other breath, gratuitously slagging off his paymasters.


Flounced off Breakfast Time because she didn’t like the early mornings, only to later re-emerge reading the news on Sky…at breakfast time.


From regional telly to Breakfast Time to regional telly to doing her best Judy Finnegan.


A big star in the 1980s on Newsround and an even bigger star in the 1990s on…ah. Can’t quite recall when he took up as Jon Snow’s bagman, but it must have been fairly recently, because he turned up on Election ’97 hanging round one of the more obscure Tory counts. And reporting on a declaration as well (SATIRE).


Aside from playing Newsreader on at least half a dozen late 80s/early 90s sitcoms and sketch shows, Richard managed to enjoy not only a second wind but a second generation of exposure when his moustache stood in for an incapacitated John Craven on Newsround.



  1. Steve Williams

    May 10, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    At the time of Election 97, Krishnan Guru Murthy would have been reporting on Newsnight, which for a time he combined with reporting on The National Lottery Live, before Newsnight told him to stop.

    Fortunately, John Tusa only read the One O’Clock News for a year or so, but he then kept on coming back to do stuff like D-Day, VE Day and The Hong Kong Handover, because they weren’t classed as news programmes, but events, and Tusa was a mate of Philip S Gilbert who ran the events department, so kept on doing them even when he was slagging off the Beeb. And it meant they had to send two lots of reporters, with Raymond Baxter and Eric Robson and so on doing them live, then the news lot doing them for the news.

    I don’t think that department exists anymore, given the lack of “The Day’s Events” at 11pm anymore.

    When Dermot Murnaghan left ITN to join the Beeb, ITN immediately shoved him on gardening leave. And then asked him back the next day because they were short staffed.

  2. Graham Kibble-White

    May 11, 2007 at 10:02 am

    I recently saw Alistair Stewart having a fag outside ITV’s HQ in Grays Inn Road. It was reassuring, really. If he was on a break, it meant the world couldn’t have gone to shit.

  3. Des Elmes

    September 1, 2010 at 3:30 am

    As regards One O’Clock News presenting duties, Martyn Lewis shared them with Michael Buerk, then Phillip Hayton replaced both of them when they left to concentrate on the Nine.

    Then John and Big Ed replaced Phillip in April 1993, when the BBC introduced its “virtual news studio” (you know, the one with a cut-glass version of the Beeb’s coat of arms, seen at the start of every bulletin).

    Incidentally, Hayton became something of a grumpy bastard himself when the BBC decided that he should have Kate Silverton as a co-presenter – but it was understandable.

  4. Arthur Nibble

    September 1, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Apart from “Police Camera Action”, I think Alastair ‘will read news for food’ Stewart currently co-anchors the local news on ITV1 London, or whatever stupid name they’ve given it now.

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