Peter Sissons

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Peter Sissons
Peter George Sissons

(1942-07-17)17 July 1942
Liverpool, England
Died1 October 2019(2019-10-01) (aged 77)
Maidstone, England
Residence Sevenoaks, Kent, England
Education Liverpool Institute for Boys
Alma mater University College, Oxford
Occupation Broadcast journalist
Years active1964–2009
Notable credit(s)
ITV News (ITN)
Channel 4 News
Question Time
BBC News
Sylvia Bennett
(m. 1965;his death 2019)
Children3, including Kate Sissons

Peter George Sissons (17 July 1942 – 1 October 2019) was an English journalist and broadcaster. He was a newscaster for ITN, providing bulletins on ITV and Channel 4, before becoming the presenter of the BBC's Question Time between 1989 and 1993, and a presenter of the BBC Nine O'Clock News and the BBC Ten O'Clock News between 1993 and 2003. He retired from the BBC in 2009.

ITN British-based news and content provider

Independent Television News (ITN) is a UK-based television production company. It is made up of two divisions: Broadcast News and ITN Productions. ITN is based in London, with bureaux and offices in Beijing, Brussels, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, New York, Paris, Sydney and Washington DC.

ITV (TV network) TV network in the United Kingdom

ITV is a British free-to-air television network with its headquarters in London. It was launched in 1955 as Independent Television, under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority (ITA), to provide competition to BBC Television which had been established in 1932. ITV is the oldest commercial network in the UK. Since the passing of the Broadcasting Act 1990, its legal name has been Channel 3, to distinguish it from the other analogue channels at the time, namely BBC 1, BBC 2 and Channel 4. In part, the number 3 was assigned because television sets would usually be tuned so that the regional ITV station would be on the third button, with the other stations being allocated to the number within their name.

Channel 4 British free-to-air television channel

Channel 4 is a British public-service free-to-air television network headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It began transmission on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by Channel Four Television Corporation, a public corporation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which was established in 1990 and came into operation in 1993. With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter group in Wales to digital terrestrial broadcasting on 31 March 2010, Channel 4 became a UK-wide television channel for the first time.


Early life

Born in Liverpool on 17 July 1942, [1] he was the third of four brothers, sons of Merchant Navy officer George Robert Percival Sissons and his wife Elsie Emma (Evans). [2]

Liverpool City and metropolitan borough in England

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region.

Merchant Navy (United Kingdom) merchant marine service of the United Kingdom

The Merchant Navy is the maritime register of the United Kingdom, and comprises the seagoing commercial interests of UK-registered ships and their crews. Merchant Navy vessels fly the Red Ensign and are regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). King George V bestowed the title of "Merchant Navy" on the British merchant shipping fleets following their service in the First World War; a number of other nations have since adopted the title.

Sissons attended the Dovedale Junior School with John Lennon and Jimmy Tarbuck. He passed the eleven-plus and attended the Liverpool Institute for Boys from 1953 to 1961 with the theatre producer Bill Kenwright, the politician Steven Norris, and George Harrison and Paul McCartney from the Beatles. He later studied at University College, Oxford, [3] where he was treasurer of the University College Players and with them also acted, produced, directed and organised. [4]

Dovedale Primary School is a primary school situated on Herondale Road in the Mossley Hill district of Liverpool, England. It is a mixed community school founded in 1908.

John Lennon English singer and songwriter, founding member of the Beatles

John Winston Ono Lennon was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as the founder, co-lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of the Beatles. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in history. In 1969, he started the Plastic Ono Band with his second wife, Yoko Ono. After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Lennon continued as a solo artist and as a collaborator of Ono's music.

James Joseph Tarbuck is an English comedian. He was a host of Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the mid-1960s, and hosted numerous game shows and quiz shows on ITV during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. He is also known for leading ITV's Live From Her Majesty's and its subsequent incarnations during the 1980s. Actress and television and radio presenter Liza Tarbuck is his daughter.



Sissons joined ITN in 1964, working his way up to the role of journalist. He was wounded by gunfire whilst covering the Biafran War in 1968, sustaining severe nerve damage in his left leg. [5] After recovering from his injuries, he became ITN's Industrial Editor, covering many high-profile disputes during the 1970s. In 6 September 1976, Sissons joined the list of presenters of ITN's lunchtime ITN News at One bulletin, alternating with Leonard Parkin. He also co-presented ITN's 1983 General Election Night programmes (with Sir Alastair Burnet and Martyn Lewis) and in 1987 (with Burnet and Alastair Stewart). [6]

Nigerian Civil War 1967–1970 civil war in Nigeria

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War and the Nigerian-Biafran War, was a war fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra. Biafra represented nationalist aspirations of the Biafran people, whose leadership felt they could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated federal government. The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain's formal decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963. Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included ethno-religious riots in Northern Nigeria, a military coup, a counter-coup and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. Control over the lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta played a vital strategic role.

The ITV Lunchtime News is the afternoon news bulletin on the British television network ITV. It is produced by ITN.

Leonard Parkin British journalist

Leonard Parkin was a British television journalist and newscaster who worked for both the BBC and ITN.

In 1982, Sissons, along with Trevor McDonald and Sarah Hogg, presented the first edition of Channel 4 News. He remained on the programme for seven years, anchoring the only debate between National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur Scargill and National Coal Board leader Ian MacGregor during the Miners' Strike. He was also the presenter on the night of the Lockerbie bombing in December 1988. In early 1989, Sissons received a death threat following his interview of an Iranian representative as part of the reaction surrounding the publication of The Satanic Verses , with the fatwa covering Salman Rushdie extended to cover him as well. [7]

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Sarah Hogg, Baroness Hogg, through marriage the Viscountess Hailsham, is an English economist and journalist. She was the first woman to chair a FTSE 100 company.

<i>Channel 4 News</i> television series

Channel 4 News is the main news programme on British television broadcaster Channel 4. It is produced by ITN, and has been in operation since Channel 4's launch in November 1982.

Sissons left ITN in 1989 to join the BBC. [8]


In June 1989, Sissons took over from Sir Robin Day as the presenter of Question Time . [3] He continued until December 1993, when he was followed by David Dimbleby. He co-presented BBC's 1992 General Election Night coverage with Dimbleby and Peter Snow. [9]

Robin Day British broadcaster

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<i>Question Time</i> (TV programme) television series

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He worked for ITN, Channel 4 News and BBC News, where he hosted the BBC Nine O'Clock News and the Ten O'Clock News . [8] He was dropped from this position in January 2003. Sissons reportedly accused the BBC of ageism in response to its decision to remove him from the bulletin. [8] [10]

In 2002, Sissons announced the death of the Queen Mother on the BBC. This broadcast created controversy and criticism from some newspapers as he wore a burgundy tie and not a black one, deemed more appropriate for such news. [11] He later defended his choice and a senior BBC source said: "We thought if the newsreader suddenly rushed off screen to change into a black tie for the announcement it would be a distraction for viewers." [12]

Sissons subsequently presented weekend afternoons on BBC News, the corporation's 24-hour rolling news channel, although until 2004 he still occasionally appeared on the Ten O'Clock News when Huw Edwards, Fiona Bruce and Darren Jordon were unavailable. Sissons also presented News 24 Sunday, the replacement for Andrew Marr's BBC One programme The Andrew Marr Show when it was off air during the summer. He also occasionally presented weekend bulletins on BBC One. He retired from the BBC in 2009, [8] announcing on 12 June his intention to retire in the summer in order to write his memoirs. [13]

Following his retirement, Sissons published his autobiography, When One Door Closes, in 2011. It was critical of the BBC, which he accused of having a left-wing bias. [8] He had also become frustrated with the corporation's management and bureaucracy. [1]

Personal life

Sissons was a Liverpool John Moores University Honorary Fellow and delivered a lecture on 19 June 2008 speaking about the city of Liverpool. [14] He was a lifelong supporter of Liverpool Football Club. [1]

Sissons had three children, one of whom, Kate Sissons, is an actress. Sissons lived in Sevenoaks, Kent, with his wife Sylvia, [15] and had a second home on the island of Barbados. [16]


Peter Sissons died at the age of 77 on 1 October 2019 at the Maidstone Hospital in Kent. The Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, hailed him as "one of the great television figures of his time". Other tributes to Sissons were paid by Huw Edwards, Tony Blair, Piers Morgan, Simon McCoy and Jon Snow. [8] Sissons' former classmate Paul McCartney posted a tribute on his website. [17]

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  1. 1 2 3 Bates, Stephen (2 October 2019). "Peter Sissons obituary". The Guardian.
  2. Sissons, Peter (2011). When One Door Closes. Biteback. pp. 8–10. ISBN   978-1-84954-075-9.
  3. 1 2 Waterson, Jim (2 October 2019). "Former newsreader Peter Sissons dies aged 77". The Guardian.
  4. Sissons, Peter (2011). "3". When One Door Closes. Biteback. ISBN   978-1-84954-075-9.
  5. "BFI Screenonline: Sissons, Peter (1942-) Biography" . Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  6. Sissons, Peter (2011). "7". When One Door Closes. Biteback. ISBN   978-1-84954-075-9.
  7. The Satanic Verses Affair, BBC, 7 March 2009
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Peter Sissons: Former BBC and ITN newsreader dies at 77". BBC News. 2 October 2019. Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  9. "BBC One - Election 92, Part 1". BBC.
  10. Andrew Clennell (1 September 2002). "Peter Sissons is moved from BBC's 10 o'clock slot". The Independent. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
  11. "Sissons hits back at critics". BBC. 3 April 2002. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
  12. David Sapsted and Matt Born (3 April 2002). "Sissons defends corporation's coverage and lack of a black tie". Telegraph. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
  13. "Newsreader Sissons to leave BBC". BBC News . 12 June 2009.
  14. "LJMU Honorary Fellow Peter Sissons delivered a fascinating Roscoe Lecture on Thursday 19 June 2008". Liverpool John Moores University . 10 July 2008. Archived from the original on 20 June 2009.
  15. "How BBC newsreader took on the traffic wardens - and won". Sevenoaks Chronicle. 22 October 2013. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  16. "Peter Sissons, news presenter for the BBC and ITN who was a reliable on-screen presence for decades – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 2 October 2019.
  17. "Paul McCartney Pays Tribute to Schoolmate Pete Sissons". 3 October 2019.
Preceded by
Sir Robin Day
Regular Host of Question Time
Succeeded by
David Dimbleby