British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Universal News

1930 - 1959
Universal News was the sound newsreel successor to Empire News Bulletin and ran from 14 July 1930 to 29th January 1959. It started life as the Universal Talking News, highlighting the fact that it contained ‘the news fully commentated on a background of sound’. The emphasis was indeed on ‘talking’, for the reel did not initially possess a mobile sound unit, and the ‘background of sound’ was dubbed in the studio. From January 1952 a separate reel called the Universal Irish News was also released, consisting of the general reel with items of specifically British interest removed and items of local Irish interest substituted. This ceased production in December 1956, with No. 515.

When the Universal Talking News was launched in July 1930 it seems that Clifford Jeapes, the founder’s son, was ‘producer’ of the reel, with Cecil Snape in daily control as its ‘editor’. In July 1937 Snape left to become editor of the short-lived National News, and Jeapes stepped in as ‘joint editor’ of the Universal News with Brian Saveall. Jeapes continued to be credited as ‘producer and editor’ of the reel until 1948, when Snape, who had returned to Universal, was once again credited as ‘editor’. However, Jeapes remained in control of editorial policy, and by 1949 he was being credited as the reel’s ‘producer,' with Snape as ‘joint editor’ with Leslie Murray. In 1949 Universal News was taken over by Gaumont-British News, and the two newsreels became essentially one, though they kept the separate names. The last issue was released on 29th January 1959 as Rank replaced their newsreel with the cinemagazine Look at Life.
This database was compiled from documents in the Slade Film History Register. From July 1930 to March 1949, they consist of typewritten lists headed Universal Talking News or Universal News, with hand-written annotations. Many of these annotations seem to relate to reviews of the film library carried out in 1944, 1945, and 1948, and read ‘Found’, ‘Missing’, or ‘Keep’. These reviews followed the bombing of Universal’s Wardour Street office in February 1944, and were probably to check the survival of material or replace a lost catalogue. The typescripts may date from the same period.

The second set of documents was created after the takeover of Universal by Gaumont in 1949. From Universal News No. 1951 of March 1949, they consist of copies of the official issue sheets, typed on Gaumont British News forms with that name crossed out and ‘Universal’ typed in its place.
Other Information
The rights to Universal News are now held by Reuters Television and it is managed for them by the ITN Source. The ITN Source holds a substantially complete run, though there are isolated items missing. The BFI National Archive holds a substantial amount of the original film material for the period 1930-1939, 1945-1956, and the Imperial War Museum Film & Video Archive for the war period, owing to an agreement to copy the original nitrate material with former owners Visnews. Many of the original soundtracks are missing.

Films in this series can be obtained from:

Film Archive

Reuters Archive Licensing: Screen Ocean
+44(0)1954 262052
124 Horseferry Road,
British Pathe Ltd (qv) also handles the Reuters Historical Collection, which includes the British Paramount, Empire British, Gaumont Graphic and Gaumont British newsreels.
Series held
View all series held by Reuters Archive Licensing: Screen Ocean

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