Dorset

Nan Winton: First woman to read BBC TV news dies

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNan Winton: First woman to read BBC TV news dies

The first woman to read the news on BBC television has died at the age of 93.

Nancy Wigginton, who was better known as Nan Winton, became the first female TV newsreader at the corporation on 20 June 1960.

Winton was an experienced journalist who had worked on Panorama and Town and Around before she joined the television news reading team.

The retired television and radio broadcaster, who lived in Bridport, Dorset, died in hospital on 11 May.

Much debate

Although Winton was to be the first female BBC newsreader, Barbara Mandell had been a regular in TV news for ITN from 1955.

News of the decision, dubbed by the BBC at the time as an "experiment" but made partly in response to the challenge of commercial television, prompted much debate.

Television bosses at the time believed Winton was serious enough to overcome prejudiced voices in the media that said women were "too frivolous to be the bearers of grave news".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption British newsreader Nan Winton (right) interviewing politician Barbara Castle at County Hall Terrace, London, August 1961

However, Winton's on-screen role was short lived after viewers deemed a woman reading the late news was "not acceptable", according to BBC audience research.

Speaking in a BBC documentary about her career in 1997, Winton said she "didn't realise at the time what a revolutionary thing it was".

"I did realise everybody was getting very excited about it," the broadcaster added.

"I didn't have any trouble from the press or the public. It was the editorial staff who were a bit dodgy."

You may also be interested in:

Describing the then editorial staff as "men in their middle years" who had come from Fleet Street, Winton recalled how the bosses were a "bit ambivalent" about her.

By October the same year, Winton had read the late bulletin seven times before she was taken off the Nine O'Clock News programme.

Michael Peacock, a BBC television executive, called Winton in to his office and sacked her.

"He didn't say why... and I was furious," she said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption BBC announcers Kenneth Kendall, Judith Chalmers, Nan Winton and Michael Aspel, in September 1960

There would not be a regular female newsreader until Angela Rippon joined the Nine O'Clock News presentation team in 1975.

Winton, who was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, went on to work for ITV before retiring.

An inquest was opened into her death at Bournemouth Coroner's Court on 16 May.

Fran Unsworth, the current BBC director of news and current affairs, paid tribute to Winton.

"At a time when we have a host of brilliant women who present, edit, film and report the BBC news, we should look back and pay tribute to trailblazers such as Nan, the first female newsreader on the BBC," she said.

More on this story

Around the BBC