Regional television news has always been an area that interested me, so when I had the chance to do a final year project for my university course on a topic of my choice, I had a great opportunity. I’ll write some more about my project later; but for part of it, I wanted to do some interviews with people who have spent years working in regional news. One of these interviews was with ITV’s longest-serving presenter, Fred Dinenage MBE.
You’ve been a familiar face to viewers in the south since back in the days of Southern TV, how did you get started?
I started my TV career in 1964 on a Southern TV children’s programme called ‘Three Go Round’ . Among my early co-presenters were Britt Allcroft (who went on to gain the rights to Thomas The Tank Engine and is now a multi-millionairess living in Los Angeles) and Diane Keen (who went on to become a highly-successful actress). So you could say I was the only one who didn’t quite make it!
I was ‘spotted’ by Annie Nightingale – then a successful tv presenter who went on to become a Radio 1 DJ. She was writing a column for the Brighton Argus at the time – and I was there as a summer relief reporter. I was due to join the Evening Standard, in London, but went into TV instead. It was only a seven-week contract – but I’ve never stopped since!
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in television news today?
My advice to anyone starting out in TV today – go for it! It’s the best job in the world. But be prepared to work very hard, don’t be discouraged by the inevitable knocks along the way, always keep trying – and always be enthusiastic. Enjoy it!
You’ve worked on so many different kinds of programmes over the years, from news, to crime, to ‘How’, is there a particular show that you remember fondly?
I have worked on so many programmes over the years. I have loved presenting the six o’clock regional news programme – which I’ve done for 32 years!. But I also loved presenting ‘HOW?’ and ‘HOW 2’ for many years.
Thirty two years is quite impressive, does that make you the longest-serving presenter at ITV?
I think it’s me. Although Bob Warman at Central might disagree with me!
What is your brief or remit as a regional news journalist?
My brief is simply to present our programmes as well as possible – and keep producing the ratings! I especially enjoy doing interviews. We usually prepare these ourselves – me and my co-presenter Sangeeta Bhabra – and also helping in the writing and construction of the programmes.
Where does Meridian and the other regional TV stations fit with regards to audience needs and expectations?
ITV Meridian has a large area, which is why we produce THREE programmes every night – one for the Thames Valley, one for the West of the region and one for the East. We try to make it a mix of hard news and entertainment. Our audience tends to be very varied – but we seem to particularly appeal to women! Because the south has more elderly people than most parts of the country, we also tend to attract a middle-aged and older audience. These also tend to be more loyal viewers. But we are well aware of the need to appeal to a younger audience – they are the future!
The changing landscape and budgets of broadcast news have surely impacted on the output – can you give me your thoughts on that?
Budgets are always an issue in ITV – and ITV Meridian runs a tight and very productive ship. We have a small but highly-talented and multi-skilled team.
Where do you think regional TV news fit into the global news landscape?
Regional TV is an important part of news broadcasting – and our usually-high viewing figures tend to reflect how important regional TV is to our viewers. BBC South also attracts a big audience.
What changes have you seen in regional broadcasting over the years?
I have seen so many changes over the years. When I started there was just ITV and the BBC – and we transmitted in monochrome!. All our news items were shot on film. Now everything is incredibly high-tech.
Looking back at your time in news, what do you think the future holds for regional TV?
The future of regional ITV is guaranteed for some years ahead and, hopefully, that won’t change.