Last Night's TV: The Story of British Pathé/BBC4
Country House Rescue/Channel 4

Fans of The Hour (of which I'm most definitely one) will already be familiar with the "brisk banality" that so often dominated mid-century news coverage. It's depicted beautifully there, the Powers That Be calling for society lunches while the world slowly spins on its political axis. "Martial law may have been imposed in Poland," complained reporter Freddie (Ben Whishaw) in episode one. "And we have footage of Prince Rainier on honeymoon with his showgirl."

The Hour, of course, is set in the 1950s, just as television was beginning its five-decade dominance of the news media. But rewind 20-odd years, and you see a similar scenario unfolding at British Pathé, the seminal film and newsreel company. As the 1930s played out in all their turbulent glory – the Depression, appeasement, the collapse of the League of Nations – Pathé retreated into perpetually perky coverage of community cricket. The aim, according to last night's The Story of British Pathé, was to discourage revolutionary sentiment, keep the working classes in check. The result, though, was to lay the foundations for newsreels' steady decline.

It's a shame, since Pathé had far more radical roots than such ephemera would suggest. Its inaugural broadcast in June 1910 showed an early suffragette march alongside the first passenger flight across the channel. When it caught the gunfight of the so-called Siege of Sydney Street on camera, it became a sensation. For the first time, a spontaneous national catastrophe was captured live on camera. It's a piece of footage Kate Adie can remember seeing; it was fascinating, she said, their being right on the spot. Equally dramatic was the eerie footage of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison as she attempted to capture national attention by storming the track of the Epsom Derby. She was trampled into the ground by the horses, dying shortly afterwards.

It wasn't just this sort of live coverage, though, that Pathé developed. They invented all sorts of gimmicks and features that have come to define today's rolling news. The notion of a vox-pop, those little segments where ordinary people are asked for their opinions on the events of the day, was a Pathé innovation. Polls, political debates, challenges to the establishment – all were pioneered in the cinemas where Pathé film would be shown, first as a newsy tag-on to a feature film, and then as events in their own right. By the outbreak of the Second World War, more people were relying on newsreels for information than were reading the papers.

But it wasn't to last. After the obsequious 1930s, Pathé returned to form briefly, bringing sensational footage from the frontline. When one cameraman managed to film inside the Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald concentration camps, it brought images to Britain that were so shocking – so outside the realms of credibility – that they had to be authenticated by an MP. The rally was shortlived. Pressure from cinemas, concerned that Pathé was over-politicised, left the company floundering in a magaziney mix of sport, showbiz, fads and fashions. The Suez Crisis rendered them impotent, churning out Government propaganda without question. At the same time, television news programmes (like fictional The Hour) were offering far more challenging, if not subversive, coverage. By the 1970s, Pathé had ceased newsreel production.

In the end, The Story of British Pathé was a familiar one: a pioneering media force overtaken by events and innovations. Still, told as it was – a combination of archive footage and talking heads – it was also an engrossing one.

While Richard Desmond attempted to revive the Big Brother house, shifting the 10-year-old reality show from Channel 4 to Channel 5 and stuffing it with a who's who of tabloid notoriety (Sally Bercow, Jedward, Pamela Anderson, someone off The Only Way Is Essex), Ruth Watson was busy attempting another form of restoration.

The non-nonsense presenter and her bob are back for a fourth series of the unflaggingly successful Country House Rescue. This time it was Gissing Hall in Norfolk that needed the helping hand, run as it was by William and his artist wife, Anne. It was a hotel, they said, though curiously lacking in one crucial component: guests.

Naturally, Watson had a solution. Before you could say OK!, she'd brought in the Beckhams' wedding planner, one Peregrine Armstrong-Jones, to give the place a bit of pizzazz. Gissing Hall, to the apparent chagrin of Anne, got a new logo, new gateposts, new windows and a new identity – not as a hotel but as a wedding venue. A match made in heaven, so to speak.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test