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Sissons, Peter (1942-)

Newsreader, Presenter, Journalist

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A distinguished elder statesman of British television news, having fronted programmes on all four major terrestrial channels, Peter Sissons has been a familiar face on British television since the late 1970s.

Born in Liverpool on 17 July 1942, he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford before joining ITN as a journalist in 1964. He made his onscreen reporting debut in 1967, and was wounded by gunfire the following year when covering the Biafran War. While continuing to appear on camera, he was appointed ITN News Editor in 1969, its Industrial Correspondent in 1970 and Industrial Editor in 1972.

He made his newsreading debut on ITN's News at One in 1978, and four years later became the first presenter of the ITN-produced Channel Four News (1982-). The programme got off to an uncertain start, and it was widely acknowledged that Sissons' gravitas and expertise boosted its credibility, especially after he chaired a live debate between Arthur Scargill and Ian McGregor, arch-rivals in the 1984 mining dispute. During his tenure, the programme won three consecutive BAFTAS, and Sissons himself won a Royal Television Society award in 1988.

In 1989, the BBC asked Sissons to present the Six o'Clock News and chair its political discussion programme Question Time, following the retirement of its founder Robin Day. Sissons held both positions for nearly five years, becoming presenter of the flagship Nine o'Clock News from January 1994 (the Ten o'Clock News from October 2000). He was also a key presenter of live general election coverage, starting on Channel Four in 1983 and 1987 and continuing at the BBC in the 1990s.

Generally regarded as a safe pair of hands, Sissons weathered the largely tabloid-manufactured storm over his decision to wear a burgundy (instead of black) tie when announcing the Queen Mother's death in April 2002. The following year, his 60th, he was moved to BBC News 24, a decision that attracted accusations of ageism.

Michael Brooke

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