2 Nov 2012

Channel 4 News: 30 years on

I wasn’t here 30 years ago. I joined seven years after Channel 4 News was born. Working on ITV’s News at Ten, I do remember that birth. It was messy, let’s be frank. I mean there seemed to be a myriad presenters who all talked pictureless-ly for what seemed hours: Godfrey Hodson (great brain), Peter Sissons – an ego nearly as large as mine – Sarah Hogg, a fine financial intellect, but perhaps not tailor-made for television.

I’m afraid we ITV oiks laughed up our sleeves. “This will never work,” was one phrase I heard in the ITN bar. I sighed with relief that I hadn’t been dragooned into working for it.

But then in 1984 the miners’ strike hit, and Channel 4 News came of age. The programme achieved what no politician, no Minister, no journalist even, had achieved. It managed to stage a debate between the miners’ union leader, Arthur Scargill, and the coal chairman, Sir Ian Macgregor.

By the time I was invited to “do the odd shift of presentation”, in March 1989, Channel 4 News had found something of a niche in the market.

When I joined then, I was a deeply inexperienced anchor. I took a long time to settle – maybe I’m still settling. I still think I can get better, each day.

My high spot came in 2010 when we uncovered the ridiculously secret legal advice for going to war with Iraq. The real advice had been verbal 10 days later. But we had all that had ever been written down. It caused no end of trouble!

We have transmitted the programme from Delhi to Sao Paolo; from Tehran to Kampala. I think our week in Iran remains one of the greatest achievements of any news programme anywhere in the world.

These days our team attracts the best in the business – producers, technicians, managers – yes, presenters even!

Because we have never wavered from 7pm, we have become a guaranteed moment in the day. Nursing mothers have told me that the music and the bright colours act like the bell in the experiment with Pavlov’s dog. Babies respond – it’s feeding time, and then by the time we play ourselves out, time for the cot!

And now we are in the multi-platform age. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and the web. We are highly active on all. I blog two or three times a week, Tweet every day, indeed I can claim one of the biggest followings in the UK TV news world – 230,000 and counting!

So happy birthday Channel 4 News, I can honestly say it with love.

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