Monday 14 October 2019

Peter Sissons, former BBC and ITN newsreader, dies aged 77

The news anchor died in hospital on Tuesday surrounded by family.

Peter Sissons reading the BBC’s main evening news (BBC)
Peter Sissons reading the BBC’s main evening news (BBC)

By Lucy Mapstone, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

Former BBC and ITN newsreader Peter Sissons has died at the age of 77.

Sissons, whose broadcasting career spanned more than 40 years, died on Tuesday while surrounded by family, his agent said in a statement.

“We are sad to announce that Peter Sissons, the former presenter on ITN, Channel 4 and the BBC, died peacefully last night in Maidstone Hospital, Kent.

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Former BBC and ITN newsreader Peter Sissons has died at the age of 77 (PA)

“His wife and three children were with him and wish to pass on their thanks to the hospital staff who were so caring and fought gallantly to save him to the end.”

Sissons was a familiar face for decades as a newsreader, joining ITN in 1964 after graduating from Oxford University.

In 1969 he was appointed ITN’s news editor, becoming industrial correspondent a year later, and industrial editor in 1972.

His first role as a news anchor came several years later when he began presenting ITN’s News At One.

Sissons joined the BBC in 1989 as presenter of Question Time, as well as joint presenter of the Six O’Clock News.

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Peter Sissons and his wife, Sylvia attended the Daily Mirror’s Pride of Britain awards in 2009 (PA)

He moved to the Nine O’Clock News in 1994 and stayed with the programme until it moved to its new time of 10pm.

He retired from broadcasting in 2009 and was considered at the time to be one of the UK’s longest-serving news presenters.

Born in Liverpool, growing up he attended Dovedale Junior School, which boasts John Lennon and Jimmy Tarbuck among its alumni.

He later attended the Liverpool Institute for Boys, where he met another Beatle, George Harrison, whom he would go on to become friends with.

Many years later, in a 2001 interview with the BBC he shared anecdotes from his friendship with Harrison.

Recounting an incident from his time at ITN, he told the BBC: “I got a phone call on the news desk and the receptionist said ‘George Harrison is here to see you’. I went down to reception and there was George in reception with most of the Hare Krishna people from Oxford Street.”

Following Harrison’s death he said the Beatle was “a gentleman and a great musician”.

Before his broadcasting career took off, Sissons worked as a bus conductor in Liverpool.

In his memoirs titled, When One Door Closes, he recounts meeting his future wife, Sylvia, at St Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool and the pair married in 1965.

They went on to have three children – Michael, Jonathan and Kate – whom he says, in the preface of his book, “could always be relied upon to put my ups and downs into perspective with humour and loving support”.

The BBC’s director-general, Tony Hall, was among the people from the broadcasting world paying tribute to the news anchor.

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A PA archive photo showing the The ITN team for the General Election results programme, “The Nation Decides”. Front row, from left – Sue Tinson and Diana Edwards-Jones and back row, from left – Peter Sissons, Alastair Burnet and Martyn Lewis (ITN)

Lord Hall said: “Peter Sissons was one of the great television figures of his time – as an interviewer, presenter and world-class journalist.

“During his distinguished career he was one of the most recognisable and well-respected faces of television news.

“He was always a great person to be with and to work with. He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues, and our thoughts are with his family.”

Good Morning Britain presenter and journalist Piers Morgan said in a tweet that Sissons was “an excellent journalist & TV newsreader, and splendidly combative & amusing man”.

James Mates, Europe editor for ITV News, tweeted: “I met Peter Sissons on my first day as an ITN trainee. He said: ‘You’re going to be taught all sorts of stuff about pictures and cameras and sound and editing. But there’s only one thing that matters – the words’. He was right. Fine man, fine journalist.”

BBC journalist Simon McCoy also paid tribute to Sissons, writing on Twitter: “Very sorry to hear of the death of former colleague Peter Sissons. A great journalist and a fine presenter at ITN and the BBC. #RIP”

Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow also paid tribute.

In a statement he said: “We at Channel 4 News are deeply sorry to learn of the death of Peter Sissons. He launched our programme in 1982 and was integral to its development before he left to join the BBC in 1989 to do Question Time.

“He was a consummate journalist, he showed real courage under fire and was indeed shot in both legs in Biafra. It was he who set the tone and the high journalistic standards that the programme seeks to emulate to this day.

“Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and erstwhile colleagues. He will be greatly missed.”

Good Morning Britain presenter and former BBC Breakfast anchor Susanna Reid tweeted: “Very, very sad to hear this.

“Peter Sissons was a highly respected broadcaster whose voice exuded authority.”

BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker, who worked with Sissons, quipped that the late news presenter had never got his name right.

He said on Twitter: “Having grown up watching and admiring Peter Sissons it was such a privilege to end up working alongside him at News 24.

“I don’t think he ever got my name right when he threw to me but I loved sharing a studio with him and learned so much. My thoughts are with his family.”

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