Behind the Screens with some of TV’s more familiar faces


The people behind your favourite programmes – and the people in front of them

Cover of the Girl TV and Film annual 1963
From Girl Television and Film Annual 1963

FIELD Marshal Lord Montgomery could probably tell you offhand just how many people are required to keep one soldier on the field of battle, and it is very much the same in television.

To get one programme broadcast requires not only the men and women in the studio, but thousands of ‘back-room’ workers.
Many of the Programme Producers are women. Among them are Lorna Pegram, responsible for BBC’s Wednesday Magazine, and Yvonne Littlewood, whom we associate with This is Your Life. Elizabeth Cowley is acknowledged in the ‘Radio Times’ as an Associate Producer of Tonight.

Some have very specialised jobs. There is Miss G. M. Miller, who is Head of the Pronunciation Unit that clues-up the News Readers on the correct way of pronouncing proper names and places in foreign countries, and tongue-twisters nearer home. To mispronounce Kirkcudbright in Scotland, or Llanfaircaereinion in Wales (it is Kurrcoo-bree and Thlan-furr-kurr-enyen) would provoke the natives of both nations to bombard the BBC with complaints.

Miss Anna Instone, whom we associate with that popular Sunday series Music Magazine, is the woman responsible for building up the BBC’s record department, starting in the old days at Savoy Hill.

Robert Dougall sits behind a desk. Behind him is a map of the world; in front are cameras and tech operators

One of the penalties of popularity is the well-meaning criticism of many viewers, as BBC News Reader, Richard Baker can tell you. He is sometimes referred to jokingly, among his colleagues at Alexandra Palace, where the news comes from, as ‘the heartthrob’ because of the amount of fan mail he receives. He once returned from holiday wearing a moustache. When he read the six o’clock news the switchboard was jammed by angry viewers demanding that he shave it off. When he reappeared, to read the later bulletin, he was clean shaven.

Many of his fan letters contained proposals of marriage, till he settled that problem by getting married himself, to Margaret Martin, whom he had known since childhood.

Well in the forefront of a new generation of television personalities is David Dimbleby, who was acting as Chairman of a Quest programme and reporting for the What’s New? series within months of his coming down from Oxford in 1961. After leaving Charterhouse, David spent four months at the Sorbonne in Paris, and another three months in Italy, at Perugia, polishing up his languages. Then to Christ Church, Oxford, where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and edited ‘Isis’, the University periodical.

He considered the Bar as a career, and is young enough to change his mind about television and aim for the Woolsack.

‘But,’ he says, ‘TV has been part of my life, always talked about and pulled to pieces. It provides some of the things I wanted -variety, travel, different people, different work each day, and the personal freedom I value.’

To secure that freedom he opted to become a free-lance rather than a staff man.

‘In a strange way, too,’ he explains, ‘I suppose the Father-Son pull, a need for some sort of continuity, may have played a part, though of course in television you are very much on your own.’

Judith Chalmers
Judith Chalmers, BBC TV announcer and interviewer, made her first broadcast in 1948.

Among the girls whose faces we see on our screens, let’s take a look at Judith Chalmers. She began broadcasting in Children’s Hour when she was 13, from the Manchester studios, and in 1956 became the first regional announcer in Manchester. She was born in Cheadle, Cheshire, and has a keen north-country sense of humour. She loves travel and takes her holidays abroad, hunting out interesting places not mentioned in the highly coloured brochures issued by tourist agencies. Our Judy would rather go by local bus and train to the Dordogne, talking to everyone she meets, than fly in a luxury aircraft to Nice, there to lie on the beaches and have the skin burned off her shoulders!

Her longest working stint as a television announcer was Christmas Day, 1961, when she was on duty from the morning until close-down at night.

‘I had to be in make-up all day, and only had time to change my dress and put on a fresh lot of make-up while Michael Aspel was reading the news,’ she recalls.

Her Christmas leave came at New Year, when she went home to spend it with her family in Cheshire.

Gordon Watkins
Any programme as topical as TONIGHT may not be complete even when transmission begins. Substitute items may be needed at the last minute. Associate Producer Gordon Watkins finds that thinking in his early morning tub is useful and has fixed himself a steam-proof contraption on which he spreads out the morning papers in his hunt for likely stories.


With thanks to Ian Fryer.

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