ITN pays tribute to Sir David Nicholas

One of the “great innovators of broadcast journalism” and former ITN Editor-in-Chief, Sir David Nicholas, has died aged 92.

Sir David joined ITN in 1960 after moving from the Yorkshire Post to Fleet Street where he worked at the Daily Telegraph and as a sub-editor on the Observer. He built what was a fledging company into one of the most respected and recognised TV news brands in the world and was regarded throughout his 32-year career as one of the greatest pioneers of his generation.

Said CEO Deborah Turness: “His influence over the way news was covered saw ITN rise from being the underdog to the BBC to become its equal – and often superior – competitor.

“His pioneering spirit, innovative approach and dedication to journalism is something that resonates in this building every single day. We, and indeed the wider industry, owe a great deal to his decades of service and unwavering commitment to high quality journalism.”

Sir David was the producer of the first ever News at Ten, which was originally designed as a 12-week show. He went on to become the show’s editor, then ITN’s Editor-in-Chief and later its Chief Executive.

He was appointed Chairman in February 1989.

Sir David broadcast some of the most iconic moments of the 20th century; he organised coverage of the Apollo moon landings, covered US presidential elections, UK elections, Vietnam, Middle East conflicts, oil crises, industrial unrest in Britain, the Falklands War and war in Afghanistan.

He was also responsible for many of the ground-breaking front of camera developments which were copied by rivals. The first two handed presentation of News At Ten and the first female member of the presenting team.

Stewart Purvis, former ITN CEO and Editor-in-Chief said: “From the first use of computer graphics on election nights to award-winning coverage of Man on the Moon, Sir David was an innovator in reporting world events over 30 years from 1960 to 1991. In my one of last phone calls with him earlier this year he recalled ‘ every week we tried to do something that hadn’t been done before’.”

Sir David was awarded the CBE in 1982 and subsequently the Cyril Bennett award for television in 1985.

He was knighted in the 1989 Queen’s Birthday Honours List and in 1991, he was awarded the Royal Television Society’s Judges Award in recognition of his long service to television news.

Sir David was born in Glynneath, South Wales and was educated at Neath Grammar School before going to the University of Wales in Aberystwyth where he obtained an Honours Degree in English. His friends at university reportedly thought he was a “bit odd” for wanting to be a journalist.

Deborah Turness added: “His journalistic core belief was that impartiality was the driver and priority for ITN. For me, he’s summed up in a quote he gave in a landmark career retrospective interview: ‘If we ever got a one-to-one with God……we would seek an interview with Satan too.’”

Sir David leaves his daughter Helen, her husband Robert, son James and his partner Amanda, and grandchildren Matthew, Olivia and Alexander.

Sir David retired as Chairman of ITN in October 1991.

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