Mike Neville, broadcaster

Veteran broadcaster Mike Neville who has died at the age of 80.
Veteran broadcaster Mike Neville who has died at the age of 80.
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Mike Neville, who has died at 80, was the most familiar Geordie on television, three decades before Ant and Dec.

He had been since the early 1960s the face of regional news, first on ITV, then on the BBC and finally back on ITV.

Overlapping transmitter patterns meant that for many years it was his face, not those of the Yorkshire region presenters, that was seen on screens in the northern part of Yorkshire.

Asked why he had chosen not to follow the network to the capital, he said: “I actually hated working in London,” he said. “Up here, it is like working with family.”

Born in Willington Quay in North Tyneside, he left school at 15 before completing his two years’ National Service in Cyprus. Upon his return, he took a job as an office boy at the Chamber of Trade and then as a dogsbody, as he put it, at the Daily Mail’s office in Newcastle.

A “proper” job at the Newcastle Playhouse followed, and it was a young actor that he net and married his wife, Pam.

In 1962, he joined the local ITV station, Tyne Tees, which had been broadcasting for around four years from a studio on City Road. He was put to work first as a station announcer but soon graduated to the newsreader’s seat.

His stint with the company was relatively short, and he was persuaded to join the BBC’s rival Look North programme. At that time, the corporation’s regional bulletins were bundled together with Nationwide on the network, and Mr Neville became a familiar fixture on the bank of monitors behind Michael Barratt and Frank Bough.

His later colleague, ITV’s Pam Royle, said she remembered as a child “skipping to the theme tune before watching the TV news with my dad. We always watched Mike Neville. I never imagined I would have the privilege of working with him”.

Another broadcaster, Ian Payne, pointed out that the success of the Great North Run, the Newcastle half-marathon which takes place this weekend, was in no small part due to Mr Neville having championed Brendan Foster’s original idea.

“It’s not an overstatement to say that Mike is part of the fabric of the north east,” Mr Payne said.

Indeed, when in 1977 the US President Jimmy Carter visited Newcastle, famously playing to the local crowd by beginning his speech with the words “Howay the lads”, it was Mr Neville who led the small posse of regional luminaries shaking his hand.

He described himself as “a true Geordie, born a stone’s throw from the Tyne”, and it was his transparently genuine chumminess - not to mention his unique, semi-theatrical presenting style - that endeared him to viewers.

At one point, the north east musician Jez Lowe went so far as to record a song called Mike Neville Said It (So It Must Be True).

The recipient of both an MBE and the Royal Television’s lifetime achievement award, he retired in 2006.