Peter George Sissons (born 17 July 1942) is an English broadcast journalist. He was the presenter of the BBC Nine O'Clock News and the BBC Ten O'Clock News between 1993 and 2003, and earlier a newscaster for ITN, providing bulletins on ITV and Channel 4. He is also a former presenter of the BBC's Question Time programme. He retired from the BBC in 2009.
Peter George Sissons
17 July 1942
|ITV News (ITN)|
Channel 4 News
Sylvia (m. 1965)
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 Bill Kenwright, Steven Norris, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. He later studied at University College, Oxford, where he was Treasurer of the University College Players.
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. After recovering from his injuries, he became ITN's Industrial Editor, covering many high-profile industrial disputes during the 1970s. In 1976, Sissons joined the list of presenters of ITN's lunchtime News at One bulletin, alternating with Leonard Parkin. He also co-presented ITN's election night programmes in 1983 (with Sir Alastair Burnet and Martyn Lewis) and in 1987 (with Burnet and Alastair Stewart). 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.
Sissons left ITN in 1989 to join the BBC.
He has worked for ITN, Channel 4 News and BBC News, where he hosted the BBC Nine O'Clock News and the Ten O'Clock News. 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.
In 2002, Sissons announced the death of the Queen Mother on the BBC. This broadcast created a major controversy, as he wore a burgundy tie as opposed to a black one, deemed more appropriate by tradition for such news. Sissons has since publicly defended his actions. Also during the broadcast he carried out a live on air interview with the Hon. Margaret Rhodes, the Queen Mother's niece, in which he pressed her for intimate details of the final moments of the death to the point of her breaking off the interview. This interview caused a media furore at the time, consternation in the Royal Family's circle and led the Prince of Wales to choose ITN to record his personal televisual appreciation of his grandmother rather than the BBC which would have been the expected and traditional option.
Sissons subsequently presented weekend afternoons on BBC News, the corporation's 24-hour rolling news channel, although he still occasionally appeared on the Ten O'Clock News when Huw Edwards, Fiona Bruce and Darren Jordon were unavailable until 2004. Sissons has also presented News 24 Sunday, the replacement for Andrew Marr's BBC One programme The Andrew Marr Show when it is off air during the summer. He also occasionally presented weekend bulletins on BBC One. On 12 June 2009, Sissons announced his intention to retire in the summer in order to write his memoirs.
Following his retirement, Sissons published his 2011 autobiography When One Door Closes in which he was highly critical of his former employer, the BBC. He argued that the organisation had a left-wing mindset "in its very DNA" and that the BBC News had a bias towards New Labour, the United Nations, the European Union, environmental groups, Islam, ethnic minorities and women. He claimed that "I am in no doubt that the majority of BBC staff vote for political parties of the Left". Sissons also highlighted the BBC's corresponding bias towards the Independent and Guardian newspapers, stating "producers refer to them routinely for the line to take on running stories, and for inspiration on which items to cover."
Sissons is a Liverpool John Moores University Honorary Fellow and delivered a lecture on 19 June 2008 speaking about the city of Liverpool. He is a supporter of Liverpool Football Club and is also a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster.
- Paul Revoir "Peter Sissons departs with a swipe at BBC as he finishes 45-year career", Daily Mail, 13 June 2009
- Sissons, Peter (2011). When One Door Closes. Biteback. pp. 8–10. ISBN 978-1-84954-075-9.
- "BFI Screenonline: Sissons, Peter (1942-) Biography". Retrieved 9 February 2011.
- The Satanic Verses Affair, BBC, 7 March 2009
- Peter Sissons "Left-wing bias? It's written through the BBC's very DNA, says Peter Sissons: In Thrall to the Holy Grail of 'Yoof'", Daily Mail, 22 January 2011
- Andrew Clennell (1 September 2002). "Peter Sissons is moved from BBC's 10 o'clock slot". The Independent. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
- "Sissons hits back at critics". BBC. 3 April 2002. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
- David Sapsted and Matt Born (3 April 2002). "Sissons defends corporation's coverage and lack of a black tie". Telegraph. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
- "Newsreader Sissons to leave BBC", BBC News, 12 June 2009
- "Left-wing bias? It's written through the BBC's very DNA, says Peter Sissons". Mail Online. 22 January 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
- "How the BBC became a propaganda machine for climate change zealots, by Peter Sissons... and why I was treated as a lunatic for daring to dissent".
- News Update Archived 20 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "How BBC newsreader took on the traffic wardens - and won". Sevenoaks Chronicle. 22 October 2013.