Obituary: Brian Connell

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The Independent Culture
BRIAN CONNELL was a leading foreign correspondent for British newspapers in the post-war period, particularly as an expert on post-war Germany. He went on to play a significant role in the development of television news and current affairs in Britain.

At one time it looked as if he would become the dominant figure in ITV current affairs, rivalling Richard Dimbleby on the BBC, but that was not to be. Connell got increasingly at loggerheads with predominantly left- wing producers of ITV current affairs. And his image was somewhat too Edwardian and telling of the establishment to fit the new emerging thrusting service of ITV.

Connell was born in Hertford in 1916 and educated at Brighton Grammar School. He travelled in Spain and Germany, then joined Reuter's as a foreign correspondent before the outbreak of the Second World War, when he served in Intelligence with the Royal Navy.

At the end of the war, he became a reporter for the Daily Mail and News Chronicle, and began his writing career in the early Fifties with a translation from French of Alain Bombard's account of his Atlantic crossing. Connell continued to publish prolifically until the mid- Seventies, mostly historical works. He "ghosted" several volumes of memoirs, including those of Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, Kurt Waldheim and Harold Wilson.

Connell was a striking figure, tall, bearded, with beautifully clear diction and self-confident on the screen. He proved a good foreign correspondent for ITN and in 1957 was tried as a newscaster for the first time. A bearded newscaster was disliked by some viewers - there has never been a leading British newscaster with a beard - but above all his image was slightly too dated for ITN.

He moved into current affairs and became the anchor-man of This Week, the main ITV current affairs programme. Together with Ian Trethowan he presented the 1959 election results. But Connell was an ardent believer in absolute impartiality in journalism. This brought him up against producers in the ITV programme companies who were seeking to make more opinionated and politically committed programmes, and blocked his further development. In 1963 he moved with dignity across to Anglia television, where he continued to do distinctive current affairs work. He also produced, together with Woodrow Wyatt, one of the few programmes exploring the left-wing links of British trade unions.

Connell was a man who lived life with gusto and whose contribution, particularly in the early days of television news, was important.

His wife Esmee, who for many years worked as his assistant and researcher, in 1996 predeceased him.

Brian Reginald Connell, journalist, broadcaster and writer: born Hertford 12 April 1916; married; died Brighton, East Sussex 7 August 1999.