1st British woman News reader
The 23rd of September 1955 AD
The launch of ITV brought with it a rush of energy and a newer, less stuffy way of approaching the audience than the BBC had tended to offer. The BBC had until shocked into action by the pending arrival of ITV presented news almost magic lantern style, with still pictures and an out of sight newsreader. ITN, the news production company for ITV, changed things, with three personalities chosen to front the news on screen: larger than life barrister and broadcaster Robin Day at 7pm; Olympic athlete Christopher Chataway at 10pm; and very innovatively for the time a woman, the 35-year-old Barbara Mandell, on the noon bulletin.
Mandell – born Allada Barbara Grenville-Wells – had been a print journalist in South Africa, where her family moved when she was a child, and later had various roles in South African radio; she had also worked as a scriptwriter on BBC News programmes. Mandell was thus a logical pick; able to write some of the items as well as present them; but still in the Fifties this was a daring choice for ITN’s first editor Aidan Crawley to make.
Financial problems at ITV meant the following year cut-backs were made, and the noon show was pulled. But Mandell, who had also led the way with for example vox pops, had her place in TV history.
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