More TV Memories – What The Papers Say.

What The Papers Say (ITV, 1956-1982, 1989-1990, Channel 4, 1982-1988, BBC2, 1990-2008)

This is a show that I always thought was rather curious, as it seemed to have come from a different era of TV, and eventually ran for over half a century. What The Papers Say is one of the earliest productions by Granada, even pre-dating the likes of the long-running Coronation Street, University Challenge, and World In Action. The format never really changed much over the years though.

Every week a journalist from a national newspaper or magazine who was sat in an empty void would offer their views on the week’s news as it was covered. The opening voiceover always said that this was “discussed by” rather than “hosted by”. They would usually only have about ten minutes to reflect on everything. Of course, the different newspapers would take different angles on events, depending on their readership.

Various things would be quoted (once they’d been cut out of the page with some scissors), and this would lead to what is probably the most famous element of the show. The broadsheet coverage that was mostly read by retired colonels was read by the voiceovers in a rather posh voice, while the tabloids, who liked to express everything using words that contained no more than two syllables, had their coverage read in a rather common voice, trying to capture the “cor blimey shock horror!” tone.

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Honestly, these people went to RADA, is this what they’ve been reduced to? In addition to this, there was The What The Papers Say Awards, an annual ceremony where the best journalism over the past year was rewarded. This is also part of a very small group of shows that have been on three different TV channels. Having started on ITV, when Channel 4 launched, there was a move there, followed by a brief move back to ITV, and then off to BBC2.

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This is where I remember seeing the show, although this seemed to be on in a different timeslot every week, as if it was something that they had lost interest in, and it got to the point where this only seemed to be on because it always had been on, and even though people hadn’t watched regularly for decades (and they never changed the theme music either), it always had to be there in the schedule, although if you ever asked anyone if they saw it they would simply say “is that still going?” – I suppose you could call it Top Of The Pops syndrome.

By the end of the long run, the idea was somewhat outmoded, and a move to BBC Radio 4 to try and attempt to breathe some new life into things didn’t really work. This was because every night on news channels there was a newspaper review, so this kind of thing was now available to watch every day, and none of them have to put on any silly accents either. Cor blimey!


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