Wednesday 2 September 2015

Britain's First Lady Newsreader

When you think of British female newsreaders on TV, you immediately remember Angela Rippon, Anna Ford and Jan Leeming. But the first ever lady newsreader on British screens was Barbara Mandell, who presented the midday news on the newly launched Independent Television back in 1955.

Along with Barbara Mandell, who presented the lunchtime bulletin, former Olympic runner Christopher Chataway and news legend Robin Day were selected by ITN Editor Aidan Crawley from over 150 candidates, to front the news coverage for the newly licensed station. 

It was 60 years ago, on 23rd September 1955, the day after the launch of independent, commercial television, that she made her first broadcast. ITV had decided upon a different form of news coverage to the established BBC output, fronting the bulletin with an actual newscaster as opposed to the Corporation’s continued use of newsreel with a voiceover. 

Barbara Mandell was born in London in July 1920, but relocated, as a 4 year old, to South Africa, where her father was deputy editor for the anti-apartheid Rand Daily Mail. She followed her father into journalism, initially working for the same newspaper, moving on to work for the South African Broadcasting Company. After a short period in the US, she returned to her native UK where she was employed as a news editor by the BBC. In 1955 she switched over to independent, commercial TV.

Her tenure on the lunchtime news only lasted a few months however as ITV was initially beset with financial problem and it wasn’t long before the mid-day news bulletin was dropped. She stayed there throughout the 1950s working as a reporter and occasionally fronting weekend news bulletins. Later she moved to working behind the scenes and retired from ITN in 1980. 

After moving to Luxembourg and writing travel books, she later returned to the UK and passed away in 1998. 

Did you know?
The first female BBC newsreader was Nan Winton who started reading the news in 1960, while in Ireland, the first RTE newsreader was Geraldine McInerney, who was not seen on screen until as late as 1975.