Born in India, Kenneth was educated at Felsted School and Oxford, where he gained a degree in modern languages. He was a school master and later captain in the Coldstream Guards during World War II; he was injured on D-Day. He was a BBC Radio Home Service announcer (1948 – 1959) and was also one of the original team of BBC Radio Home Service announcers who appeared as a BBC TV newsreader, with his debut on 19th July 1954 on News and Newsreel. Over the next three decades, he presented at some point on all news programmes on BBC One and BBC Two.
Notable dates in Kenneth’s early newsreading career:
- 4th September 1955: the first of the regular newsreaders to be seen in-vision, although still unnamed on screen, reading the 11pm summary.
- September 1957: he was chosen alongside Richard Baker and Robert Dougall to be the regular team of newsreaders.
- 17th December 1957: Kendall’s name was the first to be superimposed at the end of the late-evening news.
- February 1958: Kenneth read a newsflash about the Munich air disaster in which seven of Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’ were amongst 21 people killed.
- 19th February 1961: an announcement was made that Kendall would disappear from viewers’ TV screens to go on attachment to the BBC TV Planning Department. He made his final appearance reading the news on 12th March 1961 with a reported “quiet goodbye”.
He was also a BBC TV in-vision announcer (1960 – 1961) and freelanced as a presenter (1961 – 1969): BBC TV children’s Pit Your Wits (1961 – 1963); Fascinating Facts (October, December 1963 and February – May 1964); and BBC TV’s regional magazine Town and Around (1969). He anchored Southern Television’s nightly magazine Day by Day in the mid-1960s and made appearances as a newsreader in Troubleshooters (1965 and 1967), Doctor Who (The War Machines, 1966), Adam Adamant (1966) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). On 14th July 1969, Kendall rejoined the newsreading team after eight years of TV presenting in other genres. He was on newsreading duty when BBC One began transmitting in colour on 17th November 1969 and on 21st September 1970, presented the Nine o’Clock News for the first time. In July 1976, newspapers reported that both he and Richard Whitmore had started wearing glasses to read the news. On 17th July 1979, he famously lost a tooth whilst reading the BBC Two news and in June 1981 it was announced that his contract would not be renewed as Peter Woon, the new head of BBC TV News, wanted to move away from announcers to journalists reading the news.
In an interview published in the Daily Mail on 22nd December 1981 – the day before he was due to read his final bulletin – Kendall criticised changes in the presentation of news bulletins. He claimed that the BBC had lost touch with ordinary people. He also complained about “sloppily written and ungrammatical stories” which were finding their way into news bulletins. In the article, Mr Kendall went on to criticise Peter Woon, the then recently appointed editor of BBC TV news:
Peter Woon would get rid of every newsreader in the place if he could. There was no great surprise when the moves took place as we had been expecting them. He wanted reporters and not journalists to read the news and I’m not a reporter, nor is Richard Baker.Kenneth Kendall
Commenting on the quality of English at the BBC, Mr Kendall said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that diction and pronunciation is poorer now than it was when I started in BBC Radio in 1948.”
Kenneth’s final BBC TV news broadcast was intended to take place on 23rd December 1981, completing 19 years and 1 month on the newsreading team, split across two separate periods. However, he slipped on ice and fell, breaking his arm, whilst walking his dogs, causing him to miss his last bulletin. Richard Whitmore took his place on the programme (the Early Evening News at 5.40pm on BBC One). But Kenneth did still appear on the programme, in a pre-recorded interview with John Simpson, where he spoke briefly about his arm injury.
Kenneth went on to present Channel 4’s Treasure Hunt (1982 – 1989) and Songs of Praise (BBC One) before retiring to live on the Isle of Wight where he opened an art gallery, specialising in the work of local painters. He devoted much of his time to his favourite charities, music and cooking, as well as racing and the theatre. In 2010, he returned to TV in The Young Ones, in which six well-known celebrities in their 70s and 80s attempted to overcome problems of aging by harking back to the 1970s. Kenneth died on 14th December 2012, following a stroke. He was survived by Mark Fear, his partner for the last 23 years of his life. The couple had entered into a civil partnership in 2006.
Video Clips on the Internet
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Kenneth Kendall presenting News on 2.
Kenneth Kendall presenting the BBC Late News.
PICTURED: Kenneth Kendall. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: BBC.