BBC South East

Unlike most other regional programmes which have retained the same titles for decades, like Look East, Look North, Midlands Today and so on, the South East's regional news has endured through several different identities. Below are the programmes which covered the region in the past:

TOWN AND AROUND (1 Jan 1959-3 Sep 1969)

The BBC's first regional news programme for the South East which started in 1959. Some of its presenters were Michael Aspel, Corbet Woodall, Richard Baker and Zena Skinner. The programme was produced by the BBC's News Division at Alexandra Palace.

Little footage seems to survive from Town and Around. However given that at one point the programme produced its own cookery books, it might be inferred that this regional news magazine may have been more 'magazine' than 'news'.

From the start of 1969 Town and Around only appeared on Wednesdays. London This Week took over on Fridays, while the regional news slot from 6.00-6.25 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays was filled with non-news programmes such as US sitcoms Get Smart! and Bewitched.


LONDON THIS WEEK (3 Jan 1969-25 Aug 1972)

Complementing Town and Around from the start of 1969, London This Week initially appeared on Fridays only. Presented by Ronald Allison, the programme promised to include 'film reports on matters of concern, interest and amusement to Londoners'. Upon the launch of Nationwide in September 1969, the programme moved to Mondays, with the vacated Friday slot being filled by other programmes such as the US sitcom Here's Lucy, the cookery programme Entertaining with Kerr and, for several weeks in 1970, by what sounds like a spin-off, Europe This Week.

From January 1971 London This Week went twice-weekly on Mondays and Fridays, continuing until Nationwide was extended to five nights a week in September 1972.


LONDON - NATIONWIDE (9 Sep 1969-1971)

The story of South East regional news in the late 60s and early 70s is rather complicated. Town and Around ended upon the launch of Nationwide in 1969, and on Tuesdays to Thursdays the South East news was presented from within Nationwide. Initially, this appears to have formed a stand-alone segment with its own set, theme tune and presenter - Bob Wellings. The combined programme was listed in the London edition of Radio Times under the title London - Nationwide. Occasionally, for example when Nationwide was on its summer break, or when it had a day off to make way for coverage of the moon landings, Bob's segment appeared as a programme in its own right and in Radio Times was simply titled London.

With London - Nationwide on air three days a week, London This Week, an entirely separate enterprise, continued on Mondays, with other programmes on Fridays as detailed above. However for several weeks in the summer of 1970 there was also a Friday edition of London.


NATIONWIDE (1971-23 Dec 1981)

At some point in 1971 the South East segment became fully integrated into Nationwide on Tuesdays to Thursdays, with Bob Wellings promoted to join Michael Barrett on the national programme. London This Week continued on Mondays and Fridays until the end of August 1972, when Nationwide was extended to five days a week.

For the next decade South East news was presented by the national team, with Nationwide continuing in the South East only when the national programme was on its summer break, often with compilations of previously featured material. South East regional news was non-existent at all other times - daytime, weekends, bank holidays, and even the entire Christmas and New Year period.

In 1982, the BBC started to take the South East a little more seriously as a region...


SOUTH EAST AT SIX (4 Jan 1982-Oct 1983)

Presented by Laurie Mayer, Sue Cook and Fran Morrison, South East at Six was the first proper attempt to separate the regional news from Nationwide - although the theme tune was the same as its parent, and the beige and red set was almost identical.

South East at Six continued for around two months after Nationwide's demise in August 1983, albeit with a new look (I seem to remember the big red six turned blue); it then ended in mid-October. For the next week, leading up to the launch of Sixty Minutes, South East news came from the South Today team in Southampton, in an unusual link-up between the two regions. This was presumably while the Lime Grove studio was being set up for Sixty Minutes.


SIXTY MINUTES SOUTH EAST (24 Oct 1983-27 Jul 1984)

Right back to the Nationwide situation - South East was simply a integral part of Sixty Minutes, and was presented by the national team of Nick Ross, Sarah Kennedy, Sally Magnusson and others.

After the hugely unpopular Sixty Minutes was dropped in July 1984, there was another gap - and South East at Six made a surprise comeback! But a very brief one - the Sixty Minutes team stayed around to present the show from 5.55-6.15 for just two weeks. For the remaining weeks of August there was another link-up with South Today, just as in the previous year.

Then in September, the South East got its first entirely separate news programme since the 1960s...


LONDON PLUS (3 Sep 1984-23 Mar 1989)

Don't be deceived by the title, London Plus still covered the entire South East region. However, it wasn't technically a 'regional' production at all; it was produced by the BBC Current Affairs department, and used the former Nationwide/Sixty Minutes facilities at Lime Grove.

The original London Plus theme tune, used from September 1984 to July 1985 was without doubt the best regional news theme ever! Sadly, its replacement (July 1985 to February 1986) was a hideous re-recording of the same music. In fact, despite its relatively short life, London Plus managed to get through three different theme tunes, three sets, four opening title sequences and umpteen presenters.

The original team was made up of Guy Michelmore, Sally Magnusson and Bob Wellings. But they quickly moved on, and were followed by a long succession of presenters, including Jeremy Paxman, Deborah Hall, John Stapleton, Penny Bustin, Caroline Righton, Rob Curling, Lucy Meacock, Richard Bath and Steve Clarke.


NEWSROOM SOUTH EAST (28 Mar 1989-30 Sep 2001)

In 1989 a 'proper' BBC South East region was finally created, and its base was to be at the BBC's Elstree centre in Hertfordshire. This was deliberately chosen because it wasn't in London, emphasising that there was more to the South East than London. Fine in concept - but in practice it did little to stop the new news programme for the region, Newsroom South East, from remaining very London-centric.

Newsroom South East launched with Guy Michelmore in charge once again (he also composed the theme tune!), but this time he managed to hang around for over four years. Other presenters over the programme's twelve year life included Jacqui Harper, Sharon Doughty, Tim Ewart, Gwenan Edwards, Mike Embley, Charley Figgis and Gillian Joseph.

Newsroom South East's fate was sealed when the region was split up at the start of the 21st century, and there was not one, but three replacements...


BBC LONDON NEWS (1 Oct 2001-date)

The new programme for London and the South East presented a radical break from the past. Look - no desk, no chairs, no studio! BBC London News was initially presented by Emily Maitlis, from two levels of BBC London's Marylebone High Street newsroom, and everyone had to stand up, including interviewees.

Over the next few years, elements of set were gradually introduced. By the late 2000s BBC London News had moved to Broadcasting House.

After a certain amount of studio-hopping, the programme settled down in Studio D where the news is presented by Riz Lateef sitting at a desk - just like they used to do in the old days!


SOUTH EAST TODAY (3 Sep 2001-date)

Viewers in Kent and East Sussex now receive a programme dedicated to the two counties, with a small amount of overspill into the eastern fringes of Surrey and West Sussex...


SOUTH TODAY/BBC OXFORD NEWS (16 Oct 2000-date)

...while those in Oxfordshire can now catch up with all the news from the South Coast.


Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation