Cliff Michelmore Death: Six Things You Might Not Know About the BBC Broadcaster

BBC star Cliff Michelmore dead at 96
Cliff Michelmore, presenter of the travel program 'Wish You Were Here', with postcards sent with no address on them. The veteran broadcaster has died at the age of 96. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Veteran BBC broadcaster Cliff Michelmore has died at the age of 96, leaving behind a stellar legacy in British television and radio in a career that spanned 60 years. He is best known for hosting programs such as Tonight and Holiday .

The newsreader’s son Guy told the BBC he died after being admitted to hospital in Hampshire last week.

In a statement, BBC’s director general Tony Hall hailed Michelmore as an “outstanding broadcaster” whose “personal approach” to covering big news events and interviews made him a household name.

Hall added, "It's impossible to overestimate just how important a national figure he was at a time when there were just two channels. I still remember as a boy watching Cliff Michelmore presenting Tonight live five times a week in the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

In honor of Michelmore’s life and career, Newsweek looks back on facts that you may not have known about the broadcaster.

He had an unexpected start with the BBC

Michelmore was synonymous with some of the biggest TV news broadcasts of the 1960s, but he got his start with the BBC by chance after filling in as host on an episode of wartime radio show Two-Way Family Favourites . The program linked members of the British army with their loved ones around the world on-air. Michelmore, who had previous radio experience on the Royal Forces Network, would go on to become one of its most famous faces.

He met his wife at work

The former RAF squadron leader not only landed a career with the BBC through Two-Way Family Favourites but he also met the love of his life, Jean Metcalfe, on the program. The pair’s close working relationship blossomed into romance and they married in 1950. The couple had two children, Guy and Jenny. Sadly, Jean died in 2000.

He gave David Bowie his break on British TV

From one icon to another, Michelmore featured a 17 year old Bowie on Tonight in his very first British television appearance—long before he would go on to find fame as one of the world’s most influential rock stars. Bowie appeared on the show in 1964 as a spokesperson for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men.

Watch below:

He covered the assassination of JFK

In the U.S. broadcaster Walter Cronkite’s coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s murder in 1963 is ingrained in television history. In Britain, Michelmore was the man who led the charge, bringing live coverage of the tragedy to BBC viewers as it happened.

He also covered the first moon landing

In 1969, Michelmore, along with the late Patrick Moore and James Burke, presented the BBC’s coverage of Apollo 11, putting a voice to the scenes as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

A year later, in 1970, the trio covered the near-disastrous Apollo 13 mission. The coverage of the damaged spaceship’s return to Earth was seen by nearly 20 million viewers across Britain.

He presented the last show from BBC’s Lime Grove studios

Home to countless iconic productions ranging from Top of the Pops to Doctor Who , the BBC’s main TV centre was its Lime Grove studios in Shepherd’s Bush, London, from 1949 to 1991. When the corporation moved all of its productions to the nearby BBC Television Centre, Michelmore was drafted in to front the final moments of transmission from Lime Grove on June 13, 1991. He pulled a symbolic camera cord as television screens faded to black.

Watch below: