ITN reaches for the stars 

20 July 2019

It was 50 years ago tonight that humans first landed and walked on the surface of somewhere other than our home planet. The event was carried live across the Earth, watched by an estimated 530 million people who had access to television.

In the UK, there was nothing else to watch: both BBC networks and ITV carried the live pictures beamed from the moon. BBC Radio also carried coverage on 1, 2 and 4 (Radio 3 opting out to play a programme of religious choir music from Ealing Abbey).

For most of the history of competitive television news in the UK, the BBC walks away with the bulk of viewers for big national and international events. But at the time of the moon landings, ITN was on a high and BBC News was being perceived as a bit stuffy and slow.

As Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar lander, more people watched the event on their local ITV station than on BBC-1 or BBC-2, as the JICTAR viewing figures (courtesy of The Stage a week later) show.

Even more interesting are those regions with little interest one of the greatest events in human history. Viewers in the ATV, Granada, Tyne Tees, Channel and Scottish regions seem to have had less interest. Those watching in London (LWT), Harlech, Border and Anglia preferred the BBC’s coverage to ITN. Border’s most popular programme for the week was not Coronation Street or Crossroads or the sight of human beings walking on the moon: instead people watched their local news programme in droves.

You Say

4 responses to this article

Pete Singleton 21 July 2019 at 1:57 am

So I was one of the space geeks that watched the BBC coverage, for no other reason that the mix of Patrick Moore and James Burke proved too irresistible, coupled with anchor Cliff Michelmore’s urbane presentation style.

Moore’ expertise on all things lunar was always second to none, so for me there was no contest!

Arthur Nibble 22 July 2019 at 11:02 am

Sorry to be a pain, but is there some blue marker pen missing in the South and North East Scotland ratings?

Central Scotland viewers preferring Max Bygraves to local entertainment, unlike both their (Anglo/) Scottish neighbours.

Arthur Nibble 22 July 2019 at 11:14 am

“The Gold Robbers” there, with Peter Vaughan on the opposite side of the law to his celebrated Harry Grout character in “Porridge”.

In other ratings, Channel TV appeared to enjoy an American superhero comedy, and I have no idea about ATV programmes “Law Of The Lawless” and “One Piece Bathing Suit

Joseph Gallant 22 July 2019 at 8:40 pm

I suspect BBC-1 and BBC-2 simulcast Apollo coverage, with the coverage being transmitted in colour on the latter.

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