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Bric-a-Brac: N is for...

Newspaper bingo wars

It was Derek Jameson who unleashed the forces of housey-housey on an unsuspecting Fleet Street in the early 1980s when, as editor of the Daily Star, he launched a bingo game as the latest salvo in the soaraway circulation war. Practically overnight, tabloid bingo became a national obsession, with both the Daily Mirror and the Sun piling in. New and evermore vast cards arrived through the letterbox and everyone found themselves breathlessly crossing off the numbers and declaring they only required one more ball to scoop that jackpot. Elaborate variations on a theme materialised, like the Sam Fox-endorsed Twingo Bingo. And the ailing TV-am received a boost when Greg Dyke decreed that the station should broadcast the numbers from that morning’s newspapers (‘Moving on to the Mirror, game 55 day three… ’) even if Nick Owen bristled at the suggestion he wear a boater and sound a bugle to call the digits. The stakes were raised in 1984 with the introduction of million pound bingo. The Daily Express launched their Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Game with a Fred and Ginger-style commercial, the Mirror inauspiciously anchored Robert Maxwell behind a desk and Leslie Crowther ran a live draw in full The Price is Right mode in a commercial for the Sun. Even the Thunderer entered the fray, although The Times wasn’t about to sully itself with something as common as bingo, instead presenting a game called Portfolio based on stocks and shares, plugged by a bowler-hatted Mel Smith. Which was, of course, not the same thing at all.



  1. televisualcabbage

    February 8, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    The papers are still hawking the bingo cards… But where’s Ben Sheppard as a beefeater then? Hmm?

  2. Richard Davies

    November 30, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Supposedly The Mirror bingo draw was rigged so it was impossible to win the jackpot.

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