The woman who sexed up Radio 2
Friday 31 October 2008
Lesley Douglas, who resigned last night from the BBC, was not only the most powerful woman in British radio, she was also, in the view of some, the most influential person in this country's music industry.
She has been an obsessive music fan since going to see David Essex atNewcastle City Hall as a girl. In moving up to become the BBC's Controller, Popular Music, as well as head of the country's most listened-to radio network, Ms Douglas was living out a childhood dream.
Her knack for radio was unquestionable, learnt at the shoulder of her predecessor as controller of Radio 2, Jim Moir, but built on the grounding of 22 years experience at the BBC, where she had begun as a production assistant for the presenter David Jacobs. Douglas's real talent was in bringing new talent to the network, mostly younger men with sharp musical knowledge, such as Mark Lamarr,Stuart Maconie, and Steve Lamacq,or quick-witted presenters such as Chris Evans, Russell Brand, Dermot O'Leary and Jeremy Vine. Her downfall may have been that she was simply too close to her talent, regarding most of them as personal friends, including Brand and Jonathan Ross.
Such was the influence of Radio 2, with its new-found reputation for musical credibility, that commercial rivals complained they could notcompete with her star-filled line-up, suggesting the BBC was distorting the market by paying unduly high salaries.
But many of the big names that she recruited had previously struggled to make their names in radio, while others had suffered career setbacks and had been looking for work when she made them an offer.
Having put her faith in presenters such as Evans and Brand she was always immensely loyal to them – and may have found it difficult to step in and publicly criticise Brand and Ross in the immediate wake of the phone prank that proved her downfall.
Explainer: BBC Board of Trustees
*Sir Michael Lyons, chairman: also chairs the English Cities Fund and the Audit Commission.
* Chitra Bharucha, vice-chairman: also chairs the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs.
* Diane Coyle: economics consultant and former economics editor of The Independent.
* Dermot Gleeson: also chairman of M J Gleeson Group.
* Alison Hastings, trustee for England: Editor of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle from 1996 to 2002.
* Patricia Hodgson, trustee: principal of Newnham College, Cambridge.
* Rotha Johnston, trustee for Northern Ireland: vice-chair Invest NI, pro-chancellor Queen's University.
* Janet Lewis-Jones, trustee for Wales: vice president of the British Board of Film
* David Liddiment, trustee: non-executive creative director at All3Media.
* Mehmuda Mian, trustee: Indepen-dent Police Complaints Commission.
* Jeremy Peat, trustee for Scotland: chairs BBC pension scheme trustees.
* Richard Tait, trustee: professor of journalism and director of centre for journalism studies, Cardiff University.
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