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FACE OF TV NEWS; Peter Sissons dies aged 77.

Byline: ASHLEIGH RAINBIRD Diary Editor

NEWS presenter Peter Sissons had a career that few have equalled in terms of length and admiration from his peers and the public.

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 broadcaster, who has died aged 77, is best known as a calm and consummate professional in TV studios - but his 45 years as a journalist had scary times too.

He was shot in both legs in 1968 while reporting on the Nigerian Civil War, and two decades later Iran issued a fatwa against him, meaning he and his family needed 24-hour protection.

Peter was born and raised in Liverpool. His friends at school included two lads who became even more well known than him - Sir Paul McCartney and fellow Beatles star George Harrison.

Sir Paul led tributes to his "old school mate", saying: "He was a talented news presenter with a great sense of humour.

"I will miss him but always have fond memories of the time we spent together. Thanks for the good times, Pete."

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: "Peter Sissons was one of the great television figures of his time - as an interviewer, presenter and world-class journalist. He was always a great personto be with and to work with." Peter was born in 1942. His dad was a Merchant Navy officer and his mum worked in a department store.

While studying at Oxford University, Peter spent his holidays working as a bus conductor in Liverpool. He later said dealing with tricky passengers prepared him for handling difficult interviewees.

After graduating he joined ITN in 1964.

He was a foreign correspondent when wounded by gunfire in the civil war.

He was later promoted to news editor, then industrial editor before becoming a presenter of ITN's News at One in 1978.

He once recalled George Harrison turning up unannounced at the studios to visit him along with "most of the Hare Krishna people from Oxford Street".

When Channel 4 was launched in 1982, Peter was chosen to present its nightly news programme, working alongside Sir Trevor McDonald.

He joined the BBC in 1989 as host of Question Time, as well as joint presenter of the Six O'Clock News.

It was in this year he interviewed the Iranian ambassador about the fatwa issued to author Salman Rushdie. Peter admitted he found it hard to keep his anger from showing. The interview led to the fatwa being extended to him.

He moved to the Nine O'Clock News in 1994, and presented 10 hours of coverage on the day of Princess Diana's death in 1997. In 2002, Peter was criticised for wearing a burgundy tie rather than black when breaking the news of the Queen Mother's death. He said in 2011 the "unfair criticism still hurt".

He was dropped in 2003 as a main presenter on the flagship news show, later accusing the BBC of ageism.

Peter was kept on, mainly working on the 24-hour BBC News channel.

After retiring in 2009, he returned to Liverpool and sat on the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which in 2012 published its report on the 1989 football stadium disaster. The chairman, former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, said: "He made a unique and outstanding contribution to the panel.

"His advice made a huge difference to our work. He felt proud to serve the city."

Peter married Sylvia in 1965 and they had three children.

His family were with him when he died in Maidstone Hospital, Kent.

Question Time host Fiona Bruce called him a "brilliant" journalist and "one of the loveliest men in broad-casting" adding: "He was funny, a bit naughty and so kind."

ashleigh.rainbird@mirror.co.uk @arainbird

CAPTION(S):

QUESTION TIME In 1991 during his four years chairing panel

TELLY LEGEND Peter hosts the news on BBC in 1997

ITV NEWS Behind the scenes in 1980

CHANNEL 4 With Trevor McDonald at launch

FAMILY With Sylvia last year

STORM Wearing a burgundy tie in 2002
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Author:ASHLEIGH RAINBIRD Diary Editor
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Oct 3, 2019
Words:656
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