Obituary: Alistair Gracie

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The Independent Culture
ALISTAIR GRACIE became controller of Grampian Television in November last year. The station covers Britain's largest ITV area, and had just merged with Scottish Media Group at the time of his appointment. The public will now get a chance to see what they have lost, for his ideas are just coming into production.

Gracie arrived at Grampian Television in 1970 as a news researcher. This followed several years as a junior reporter and sub-editor at the newspaper group Aberdeen Journals. He quickly became news editor, a programme editor, and then in 1986 Head of News and Current Affairs. Programme success followed him throughout his career and a documentary he produced in 1978, The A9 Mystery, when repeated 20 years later got one of the largest evening audiences ever on Grampian - a testament to his skills as a news man.

But his biggest achievement was guiding Grampian Television's newsroom into winning, in 1995 and 1997, the Bafta Scotland Award for Best News Programme. In an era when some see news as an extension of showbusiness, Gracie would have none of that - serious journalism was what he was about.

Grampian earned a respected reputation at home and abroad in the newsrooms of other television companies largely because of Gracie's news editorship. There wasn't a disaster in the 1970s in his part of the world that didn't have a Gracie Grampian Television crew dispatched to it, with pictures and words then sent to ITN in London, and onwards to companies around the world. He was a news man through and through.

Born in 1948, Gracie came from north of Aberdeen, was brought up in Cairncry, and then Summerhill. He never forgot his decent, honest upbringing, with the values of the 1950s and 1960s. In a career in which he rose from researcher to Controller, he went out of his way to see that people were treated fairly on and off screen, and would stand by his staff when times got rough, as they do in the media world.

Gracie worked his way up and thought that others should do the same. He went out of his way to see that people got a fair break, and many owe their careers to his speaking up for them. His keen sense of humour was legendary: he once put a Swiss folk singer on the evening news (the singer was actually from Paisley) and the switchboard lit up with complaints about "this foreign rubbish on Grampian": no one twigged the date, 1 April. He could be very generous to his staff: the luckless reporter who broadcast the football result in the 10.30pm news just before the match highlights were televised and provoked 500 phone calls of complaint, got an encouraging smile as well as a severe warning.

Alistair Gracie, television executive: born Aberdeen 25 February 1948; Head of News and Current Affairs, Grampian Television 1986-97, Controller 1997-98; married (one son, two daughters); died Aberdeen 14 October 1998.