Nationwide is a former BBC News and current affairs television programme which ran from 9 September 1969 until 5 August 1983. It was broadcast on BBC 1 each weekday following the early evening news, and included the regional opt-out programmes.
It followed a magazine format, combining political analysis and discussion with consumer affairs, light entertainment and sports reporting. It began on 9 September 1969, running between Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:00 pm, before being extended to five days a week in 1972. From 1976 until 1981 the start time was 5:55 pm. The final edition was broadcast on 5 August 1983, and the following October it was replaced by Sixty Minutes. The long-running Watchdog programme began as a Nationwide feature.
The light entertainment was quite similar in tone to That's Life! Eccentric stories featured skateboarding ducks and men who claimed that they could walk on egg shells. (In fact, the show's tendency to sidestep serious matters in favour of light pieces was parodied in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, where the show, instead of reporting on the opening of the Third World War, chose to feature a story about a "theory" that sitting down in a comfortable chair rests one's legs). Richard Stilgoe performed topical songs.
After the introduction and round-up, the BBC regions opted out for a twenty-minute section of local news round-ups (Midlands Today, Points West, Wales Today, Look East, etc.). Once they had handed back to Lime Grove Studios in London, the regions remained on standby to participate in feedback and two-way interviews to be transmitted across the whole BBC network.
For all of its run, Nationwide provided the regional news for the BBC London/South East region, as this region was the only BBC region not to have its own dedicated regional news team. When other regions had their local news programme, the Nationwide presenters provided the latest news and weather for the London and South East region from the Nationwide studio. This situation lasted until 1984.
In May 1983, during a general election special of its "On the Spot" feature. Diana Gould, a teacher from Cirencester, persistently challenged Margaret Thatcher about her ordering of the sinking of the General Belgrano when it was sailing away from the Falklands. Thatcher denied that the Belgrano had been sailing away, but Gould quoted map references and continued to push her point across, encouraged - so the Conservative party claimed - by presenter Sue Lawley. When Thatcher asked her whether she accepted that the Belgrano had been a danger to British shipping when it was sunk, Gould told her that she did not. Thatcher was extremely angry about the BBC for allowing the question. Thatcher's husband Denis lashed out at Roger Bolton, the editor of the programme, in the entertainment suite, saying that his wife had been "stitched up by bloody BBC poofs and Trots".
As a contemporary programme Nationwide was only recorded on broadcast videotape in the event of possible complaint or litigation; after a period of time tapes would be wiped and re-used although filmed reports were archived. Consequently, only a few complete editions exist in their original form.
However, in his book The Television Heritage (1989), author Steve Bryant claimed that "a virtually complete collection of the BBC magazine programme Nationwide from 1971 to 1980" existed as domestic recordings. He wrote:
"Already virtually doomed is material held on early domestic tape formats manufactured by Sony, Shibaden and Philips. The pictures from these tapes are very poor - indeed, the Sony and Shibaden reel-to-reel tapes are monochrome only - but some unique collections exist on these formats. Most significant is a virtually complete collection of the BBC magazine programme Nationwide from 1971 to 1980, mostly on Sony and Shibaden, but on Philips for the programmes after 1977. This collection is held by the NFA (National Film Archive) and represents the only copies of the complete programmes in existence.
The BBC has all the film reports and a small selection of pre-recorded video inserts, but the programmes themselves were live and were not recorded off-air. Neither the machinery nor the funds are currently available to save the contents of these tapes, so a valuable daily record of British life in the 70s, including a large number of live interviews with leading politicians and celebrities of the time, looks like being lost."
The British Film Institute website stated in 2003 "so far we have successfully dubbed 500 [Philips] N-1500 [tapes] as part of an HLF-Funded Nationwide preservation project". In November 2016 the BFI's holdings of Nationwide, described as being on an "exceptionally rare" video format, were included in a list of 100,000 most at risk television episodes which were to be digitised following £13.5m of National Lottery funding.