John Hannam talks to Kenneth Kendall and gets Kenneth’s take on modern TV, “I do not like all the swearing on TV nowadays, and I feel that some BBC presenters are not worth the colossal money they are being paid…”
Here is the latest news! It’s now 25 years since Kenneth Kendall retired from his role as a BBC Television newscaster. For many years he was a member of the station’s big three, alongside his other highly acclaimed contemporaries – Richard Baker and Robert Dougal.
These days, as a partner in Kendall’s Fine Art in Cowes, he is still constantly recognized by the more mature buyers and browsers. Some give him a double take and then realize it really is the man who read the nine o’clock news and was described by Anna Ford as the newscaster’s newscaster.
Kenneth Kendall, who was born in India, had a fascinating early life which included Oxford, being a captain in the Coldstream Guards during the Normandy landings and then joining the BBC Home Service in 1948. At the time he would have preferred a career as a diplomat in the Foreign Office.
It was probably the moment, back in 1953, when he commented on the Queen’s Coronation, high above the ceremony in Westminster Abbey, which finally shaped the direction of his long and successful media career.
Kenneth was the first person to be seen reading the BBC Television news.
“They were not used to writing for TV news and so it was just like reading radio bulletins. So often they were difficult to read and you were constantly looking down at your papers. There were no auto cues in those days.
“Eventually we had tele-prompts, which we pedalled under the desk. If we forgot to pedal, the screen story didn’t change,” revealed Kenneth.
The television news service has now changed so dramatically. Newscasters can now get instructions from their TV monitors, which are beside them. The auto cues are now so much a part of their job. There are also so many more choices for news, with many 24 hour stations.
Have the standards dropped with so many more programmes to staff?
“I think the standards today are very high and I can’t find fault with any of it,” enthused Kenneth.
He has one major gripe with the current world of television and is certainly not alone. Millions are switching off for the same reason.
“I am left gasping so many times by the language currently allowed on television. It’s a terribly bad example and not a nice sound at all. I just don’t know why they keep allowing it.
“It would never have happened in Sir John Reith’s day. He was the founder of the BBC. That kind of leadership has now changed.”
Like most of us, he also feels certain current BBC TV presenters are really not worth the colossal money they are paid.
For many years Kenneth was an integral part of Channel 4’s number one show, Treasure Hunt. He had to try and stay calm to assist the contestants and never knew where the wonderful Anneka Rice was heading.
There were many lighter moments to Kenneth’s television career. He appeared in episodes of Dr Who, To the Manor Born and Troubleshooters and was seen in the movie Space 1999. The 1973 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show was another cherished moment – although he did not attempt the dancing.
As a newscaster he was always popular with viewers. His accolades include being voted the best dressed newscaster and the nation’s number one favourite. He also had a weekly letter from a devoted fan for well over twenty years. Then she decided he would never ask her to marry him. I’m sure he quickly recognised her handwriting after just a few letters.
The high standard of dress for newscasters has always delighted him. In certain cases, this has slipped in more recent times. He did deny that Home Service newscasters dressed up for radio when he first joined the BBC. Apparently, that was the case before the war.
There was a short experiment, when he was reading the news, of having a dual presenter. This was something he was not too keen on. Personally, I think two newscasters sharing the same news bulletin is often most embarrassing and a complete waste of time.
Kenneth left the BBC Television News in 1981 after he became bored with the job. He has never had any regrets.
He moved to the Island sixteen years ago, after a spell in the Cotswolds.
“Having grown up in Cornwall, I really missed the sea and decided to come south. It could have been anywhere but the Island was the best I saw,” said Kenneth.
Many of his friends thought he was mad and had moved to the back of beyond. In the early days he regularly commuted to London for voice-over sessions and could be in the West End in just over two hours from Cowes.
Kendall’s Fine Art was opened eleven years ago and the business has never looked back. Being in Cowes has proved the ideal location and in the summer months they are extremely busy. They have slowly built up an enviable reputation and now have so many American clients, who buy via the internet.
When their current lease expires in June of next year they will move to a brand new building, with much more room, which is currently being built within the luxury flats complex, next door to their current premises.
Kenneth Kendall has really taken to Island life and has been involved in numerous local events and charities. He has a great passion for the downs around the Needles. With three dogs to exercise he is also quite fit.