FROM THE ARCHIVE OF: The TV Room
The BBC is normally pretty good at marking anniversaries. 40 years of breakfast TV, 60 years of Doctor Who, 100 years of the BBC itself. But this weekend marks a different anniversary.
The early evening magazine programme Nationwide came to an end on 5th August 1983.
For such a successful programme, its end was unbecoming.
In its last couple of years, efforts were made to turn it into a much more serious programme. In came, briefly, David Dimbleby and a clearer focus on harder stories.
In its final months, the budget had been cut and corporate attention was on the newly launched Breakfast Time.
Its final editions included nostalgic looks back but the very last edition seemed to go out on a whimper – despite the return of Frank Bough and a last link around the regions to say goodbye.
Yet this was a programme which during its 1970s heyday was part of the spine of the BBC One schedule.
It was probably the only time the BBC succeeded in creating a truly popular and populist current affairs programme which somehow appealed to people turned off by Panorama and the predecessors of Newsnight.
An almost complete archive, albeit not of broadcast quality, is believed to survive.
This would give a remarkable portrayal of 70s Britain.
From power cuts, the Three Day Week and political turmoil to spacehoppers, skateboarding ducks and passing celebrities.
When The One Show launched in 2006 it was sometimes described as a successor to Nationwide but I would argue the comparison is misleading.
Despite some good popular current affairs films, The One Show is not rooted in news and the events of the day.
It is not the place the historian of the future will turn to if they want to find out about Brexit Britain, the full impact of the cost of living crisis or the impact of devolution.
That is not said in a spirit of criticism – The One Show at its best can provide a good start to the evening and came into its own during the first lockdown in 2020. And, yes, Watchdog is now part of The One Show – almost coming full circle as it started life on Nationwide.
But Nationwide it is not nor should it be.
Nationwide started at a time when the early evening news was just 10 minutes long. Longer news programmes, with some of the kind of content which was then the preserve of current affairs programmes, take care of much of the more serious side of Nationwide.
And, of course, the main presenters of The One Show at the moment are not journalists.
Topical television is about far more than traditional news and current affairs.
The beauty of Nationwide – despised as it was by its critics – was that all human life was there. It is the nearest a BBC current affairs programme has ever come to being people’s television.
PICTURED: Nationwide opening titles. COPYRIGHT: BBC.