Obituary: Andrew Gardner

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AS ONE of the two newscasters seen on News at Ten's first night in 1967, Andrew Gardner helped to shape the programme that became a British institution for more than 30 years, until its demise last month.

His newscasting partner that night was Alastair Burnet, although it was the irrepressible Reginald Bosanquet - of the hairpiece and precarious delivery - with whom viewers associated Gardner most. The pair had a rapport that Bosanquet put down to their diverse personalities and they gained a reputation for "bouncing off" one another. "Andrew always exercised restraint upon my natural ebullience and I always had the capacity to make him laugh," wrote Bosanquet in his 1980 autobiography, Let's Get Through Wednesday: my 25 years with ITN.

During his own 18 years with Independent Television News, the 6ft 5in- tall Gardner was noted for his dependability and unflappable nature, praised by Bosanquet for being "always in control, always authoritative and the master of handling anything that went wrong".

Recalling his own difficulty in pronouncing some foreign place names, Bosanquet asserted:

Andrew Gardner has no such problem. His technique is to sail right into such conundrums, giving every appearance of being completely au fait with the word, and then he is so quickly on to the next topic that nobody has the time to ponder about whether or not he has got it right. But, damn him, he invariably has!

Gardner and Bosanquet also innovated the technique of turning and talking to one another as the final credits rolled on News at Ten. TV Times magazine even ran a picture competition in which readers were asked to write in the balloons what they thought each was saying.

Presenting the news came to Gardner after gaining his reporting credentials in the hot-spot of Africa in the 1950s. Born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in 1932, and educated at Dauntsey's School, Wiltshire, he became a radio journalist in the Central African Federation in 1957, covering Africa extensively and becoming one of the first reporters in the Congo during the 1960 massacres.

Returning to Britain in 1961, Gardner worked as a freelance reporter and scriptwriter for BBC radio and appeared in the BBC television programme Table Talk before joining ITN later that year on a freelance basis as a reporter and newscaster.

Since its inception in 1955 at the start of British commercial television, ITN had led the way in television news and, before the start of News at Ten, also broadcast current affairs programmes. This enabled Gardner to present Roving Report (1957-67) and Dateline (1961-67), as well as Reporting '66 and Reporting '67. He also hosted the first transatlantic programme broadcast from America to Western Europe by the Telstar 1 satellite, in 1962.

When News at Ten was launched on 3 July 1967 as Britain's first half- hour news programme, with two newscasters, many ITV company bosses forecast disaster and scheduled it for just 12 weeks. The programme's first broadcast, on a slow news day, meant that it failed to gain an immediate impact and Gardner admitted that it was "the worst possible night that any television journalist could ever imagine in their wildest nightmare".

However, two days later, an on-the-spot report by Alan Hart on the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' retaking of the Crater district from the rebels in Aden, full of action, tension and danger, was run for 11 minutes. This affirmed the decision to present the day's news in depth and, soon, viewers were tuning in to the programme in their millions. In one week in August 1969, all five weekday editions of News at Ten were among television's 10 most popular programmes and it became as much a permanent fixture in the ITV schedules as Coronation Street. Throughout his time with ITN, Gardner was also a royal commentator, for Princess Anne's wedding to Captain Mark Phillips and the Queen's Silver Jubilee events, as well as appearing in general election programmes.

He left ITN in 1977, when Thames Television - the ITV weekday franchise holder for the London area - lured him away to take over Eamonn Andrews's job of presenting its flagship regional daily news magazine Today, which became Thames at 6 and, later, Thames News. His authority did much to hold together a programme notoriously difficult to make - one in which the capital's news sometimes blended with events of interest to a national audience.

He was heard on the ITV network again as one of the team covering the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, but retired from Thames Television before it broadcast its last programmes in 1992, and was replaced by Carlton.

Despite his departure from ITN, Gardner remained a loyal supporter of the television news organisation and was one of those on hand to accept a special award presented to it by the Broadcasting Press Guild last month to mark News at Ten's contribution to television.

Anthony Hayward

Andrew Gardner was extraordinarily self-effacing, writes Julian Machin. But his famous face, rising higher than any viewer could imagine when he stood up from his newscaster's desk, in reality fitted less into the television and glitz mould than any other broadcaster of his time.

He wasn't starry, he may not always have been comfortable with his fame, but he was so full of Libran charm that he reassured people over their perception of him as a public figure. In fact he was tremendously private; a man devoted to his wife Margaret, with whom he always seemed to be best friends, and to his four sons, to the family dogs and to the shaping of their beautiful home. However, to all the people in the street, in restaurants, aboard cross-channel ferries (heading for one of his preferred caravan holidays), who regularly accosted him, he was never less than courteous. He said that it was to the public that he owed the comforts of his existence and that it was only fair to acknowledge them where he could.

He was considerate beyond the norm. Once on the journey to Thames Television when his driver stopped at the gents' on Greenwich Hill, Andrew got out to stretch his long legs. The driver returned, failed to notice his important passenger was a few yards up the hill, drove away and left him surrounded by a class of enthusiastic schoolchildren. He asked them where they were going and when they replied "The Cutty Sark" he immediately said, "Then I'll come with you", making their day.

He bridged the gap between celebrity and private individual so judiciously it was hard to imagine that his media position might trouble him at all. While he was devoted to doing his job well, he seemed happiest in retirement from television, buying antiques, planning home-improvements holidays and engagements with his burgeoning family.

Andrew Gardner, television newscaster and reporter: born Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire 25 September 1932; married Margaret Drain (four sons); died in flight en route to Madeira 2 April 1999.