Nationwide (TV series)
Nationwide was a BBC News
BBC News
BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

 and Current affairs television programme broadcast on BBC One
BBC One is the flagship television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It was launched on 2 November 1936 as the BBC Television Service, and was the world's first regular television service with a high level of image resolution...

 each weekday following the early evening news. It followed a magazine format, combining political analysis and discussion with consumer affairs, light entertainment
Light entertainment
Light entertainment is a term used to describe a broad range of usually televisual performances. These include comedies, variety shows, quiz/game shows, sketch shows and people/surprise shows.-Light entertainment in Britain:...

 and sports reporting. It began on 9 September 1969, running between Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6.00pm, before being extended to five days a week in 1972. From 1976 until 1981 the start time was 5.55pm. The final edition was broadcast on 5 August 1983, and the following October it was replaced by Sixty Minutes
Sixty Minutes (TV series)
Sixty Minutes was a news and current affairs programme which ran each day at 5:40pm between 24 October 1983 to 27 July 1984 on BBC One. It replaced the Nationwide programme, and like Nationwide, it also integrated the BBC regional news programmes into a single magazine programme.However, the BBC's...

. The long-running Watchdog
Watchdog (TV series)
Watchdog is a BBC television series that investigates viewers' reports of problematic experiences with traders, retailers, and other companies around the UK...

programme began as a Nationwide feature.

The light entertainment was quite similar in tone to That's Life!
That's Life!
That's Life! was a magazine-style television series on BBC1 between 26 May 1973 and 19 June 1994, presented by Esther Rantzen throughout the entire run, with various changes of co-presenters. The show was generally recorded about an hour prior to transmission, which was originally on Saturday...

. Eccentric stories featured skateboarding duck
Skateboarding duck
Herbie the skateboarding duck was the subject of an item first broadcast on the Midlands Today insert to the BBC news magazine programme Nationwide on 24 May 1978....

s and men who claimed that they could walk on egg shells. (In fact, the show's tendency to sidestep serious matters in favour of light pieces was famously spoofed in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a BBC TV sketch comedy series. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines...

, where the show, instead of reporting on the opening of the Third World War, chose to feature a story about a "theory" that sitting down in a comfortable chair rests one's legs). Richard Stilgoe
Richard Stilgoe
Richard Henry Simpson Stilgoe OBE is a British songwriter, lyricist and musician. He is noted for clever wordplay as much as for his music....

 performed topical songs.

The programme's famous brass and strings theme music The Good Word was composed by Johnny Scott
John Scott (composer)
John Scott , also known as Johnny Scott and Patrick John Scott, is a British composer and conductor. Scott has worked with some of the world's foremost producers and directors including Richard Donner, Norman J...


After the introduction and round-up, the BBC regions opted out for a twenty minute section for local news round ups (Midlands Today
Midlands Today
Midlands Today is the BBC's regional television news programme for the West Midlands region, which covers the north of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands county...

, Points West, Wales Today, Look East, etc.) Once they had handed back to Lime Grove Studios
Lime Grove Studios
Lime Grove Studios was a film studio complex built by the Gaumont Film Company in 1915 situated in a street named Lime Grove, inShepherd's Bush, west London, north of Hammersmith and described by Gaumont as "the finest studio in Great Britain and the first building ever put up in this country...

 in London, the regions remained on standby to participate in feedback and two-way
Two-way, two way, 2-way, or 2way may refer to:* Two-way communication occurs when information flows in both directions between two parties** Two-way radio...

 interviews to be transmitted across the whole BBC network.

The show was used in an influential cultural
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

/media studies
Media studies
Media studies is an academic discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media; in particular, the 'mass media'. Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass...

 project at the University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

, known as The Nationwide Project
The Nationwide Project
The Nationwide Project was an influential media audience research project conducted by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, England, in the late 1970s and early 1980s...


Thatcher On the Spot

Perhaps the most famous interview occurred in May 1983 during a general election
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

 special of its "On the Spot" feature. Diana Gould, a geography teacher from Cirencester
Cirencester is a market town in east Gloucestershire, England, 93 miles west northwest of London. Cirencester lies on the River Churn, a tributary of the River Thames, and is the largest town in the Cotswold District. It is the home of the Royal Agricultural College, the oldest agricultural...

, persistently challenged Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 about her ordering of the sinking of the General Belgrano
ARA General Belgrano
The ARA General Belgrano was an Argentine Navy light cruiser in service from 1951 until 1982. Formerly the , she saw action in the Pacific theater of World War II before being sold to Argentina. After almost 31 years of service, she was sunk during the Falklands War by the Royal Navy submarine ...

when it was sailing away from the Falklands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

. Thatcher denied that the Belgrano had been sailing away, but Gould quoted map references and continued to push her point across, encouraged - so the Conservative party claimed - by presenter Sue Lawley. When Thatcher asked her whether she accepted that the Belgrano had been a danger to British shipping when it was sunk, Gould told her that she did not. Thatcher then proclaimed that "I think it could only be in Britain that a British Prime Minister could be asked why she took action to protect our ships against an enemy ship that was a danger to our shipping", and was extremely angry about the BBC for allowing the question. Thatcher's husband Denis
Denis Thatcher
Major Sir Denis Thatcher, 1st Baronet, MBE, TD was a British businessman, and the husband of the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. He was born in Lewisham, London, the elder child of a New Zealand-born British businessman, Thomas Herbert Thatcher, and his wife Kathleen, née Bird...

 lashed out at Roger Bolton
Roger Bolton (producer)
Roger John Bolton is a British television producer and radio presenter.-Early life:After attending Carlisle Grammar School and Liverpool University he joined the BBC as a trainee in 1967.-Television:He has worked on television as an editor of the revived Tonight in 1978, Panorama in 1979 and...

, the editor of the programme, in the entertainment suite, saying that his wife had been "stitched up by bloody BBC poofs
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 and Trots
Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky considered himself an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party of the working-class...

". As a result, Thatcher became increasingly hostile to the BBC.

April Fool reports

April Fool reports by Nationwide over the years included:
  • A mysterious research institute that turned out to be breeding dinosaurs in the woods
  • A library where nothing worked properly as the builder had been holding the plans upside down and constructed it that way consequently
  • New European legislation requiring standardisation of vegetables sizes
  • A top cooking expert showing recipes for cooking with snow
  • A family in a back street in Italy whose illicit production of nylon stockings in their sitting room was threatening the future profitability of the British textile industry

Archive status

As a contemporary programme Nationwide was only recorded on broadcast videotape
A videotape is a recording of images and sounds on to magnetic tape as opposed to film stock or random access digital media. Videotapes are also used for storing scientific or medical data, such as the data produced by an electrocardiogram...

 in the event of possible complaint
In legal terminology, a complaint is a formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons that the filing party or parties In legal terminology, a complaint is a formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons (see: cause of action) that the filing party or parties In...

 or litigation; after a period of time tapes would be wiped and re-used although filmed reports were archived. Consequently only a few complete editions exist in their original form.

However, in his book The Television Heritage (1989), author Steve Bryant claimed that "a virtually complete collection of the BBC magazine programme Nationwide from 1971 to 1980" existed as domestic recordings. He wrote:
"Already virtually doomed is material held on early domestic tape formats manufactured by Sony, Shibaden and Philips. The pictures from these tapes are very poor - indeed, the Sony and Shibaden reel-to-reel tapes are monochrome only - but some unique collections exist on these formats. Most significant is a virtually complete collection of the BBC magazine programme Nationwide from 1971 to 1980, mostly on Sony and Shibaden, but on Philips for the programmes after 1977. This collection is held by the NFA (National Film Archive) and represents the only copies of the complete programmes in existence.

The BBC has all the film reports and a small selection of pre-recorded video inserts, but the programmes themselves were live and were not recorded off-air. Neither the machinery nor the funds are currently available to save the contents of these tapes, so a valuable daily record of British life in the 70s, including a large number of live interviews with leading politicians and celebrities of the time, looks like being lost."

The British Film Institute
British Film Institute
The British Film Institute is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to:-Cinemas:The BFI runs the BFI Southbank and IMAX theatre, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London...

 website has stated "so far we have successfully dubbed 500 [Philips] N-1500 [tapes] as part of an HLF
National Lottery (United Kingdom)
The National Lottery is the state-franchised national lottery in the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.It is operated by Camelot Group, to whom the licence was granted in 1994, 2001 and again in 2007. The lottery is regulated by the National Lottery Commission, and was established by the then...

-Funded Nationwide preservation project"


  • Let's Go Nationwide, BBC2, 1991; Transmitted as part of "The Lime Grove Story", 26 August 1991, marking the closing of the studios
  • It's Time to Go Nationwide, BBC4, 2009; Shown 5 February 2009

External links

  • Let's Go Nationwide, TV Cream
    TV Cream
    TV Cream is a British television nostalgia site which originally appeared as The Arkhive in 1997, before adopting its current name the following year...

  • Ian Jones, The Good Word, Off the Telly, July 2002
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