Geoffrey Owen

Popular head of Radio 2
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The Independent Online

Geoffrey John Hugh Owen, radio executive: born Malvern, Worcestershire 22 May 1926; Head, BBC Radio 2 1976-86; married 1959 Pauline Mead (one son, one daughter); died Romford, Essex 7 February 2007.

The BBC radio executive Geoffrey Owen had the task of co-ordinating the planning and birth of the Radio 1 and 2 networks in 1967 and was instrumental in bringing the Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan to British airwaves. In 1976 he was appointed Head of Radio 2, a role he fulfilled for 10 years until his retirement.

Owen began his BBC career in 1943, joining its Engineering Division straight from Wyggeston Grammar School in Leicester at the age of 17. As a junior technician he worked on the small booster "H Group" transmitters in the Midlands until 1945 when National Service beckoned. He served in Greece and the Middle East with the Royal Corps of Signals, rising to sergeant, and on demobilisation rejoined the BBC, later coming to London as a television cameraman on the 1948 Olympics at Wembley before becoming a Programme Engineer in its Radio Variety Department headquarters in Aeolian Hall, New Bond Street.

He was involved in the radio coverage of the Coronation in 1953 and worked on the great comedy shows of the time - Life with the Lyons; Educating Archie; Take It From Here; The Goon Show - and also dealing with the output of the major dance orchestras. Many outside broadcasts from night-clubs and restaurants brought him into regular contact with the Latin-American bandleader Edmundo Ros, with whom he became great friends.

His radio-production potential was readily observed and within a few years was appointed as a producer. By 1963 he had progressed to Chief Producer in the Popular Music Department. Executive Producer was the next point, where he became responsible for negotiations with the European Broadcasting Union and Nordring events.

Outgoing and free-spirited, Owen was respected and popular with his associates, achieving a happy and efficient department and considerably raising the profile of Radio 2 throughout his tenure as its head. Having fulfilled a 43-year career with the BBC, he retired in 1986, when he joined Brentwood Borough Council, in Essex, where he became the impresario of the entertainment activities in its new leisure centre, having recruited a former Radio 2 colleague, Steve Allen, as his organiser.

Geoffrey Owen's external interests were many: he was a member of the Television and Radio Industries Club and, also, of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers. His father-in-law, Claude Mead, had established a riding school in the grounds of his home in Upminster, Essex, which infused an enthusiasm in Owen to participate in the critical aspects of the sport. He later served as a judge for the British Show Jumping Association.

Brian Willey