Jane Carrington

'Censor' at the BBC World Service
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jane Carrington, administrator: born London 28 November 1929; staff, BBC 1949-86; died Reading, Berkshire 8 November 2005.

For over 20 years, Jane Carrington ensured the smooth operation of the BBC World Service newsroom in Bush House. She was not one of the 100 or so journalists producing the service recognised worldwide for its accuracy and authority, but she had charge of the highly complex rota system needed to make it happen. To a whole generation there, she was simply "Jane". No other identification was necessary. A former correspondent once described her as the last civilised person in Bush House.

Her secret, apart from an enormous capacity for clear thought and a calm temperament, was the huge store of knowledge acquired talking to the staff, and the universal affection in which she was held. She was able to deal with those with large egos, those who dropped out because they had a cold - about which she could be very sniffy - or with substantial numbers caught up in rail strikes. She could persuade one to take on a night shift, or "dawn" in Bush parlance, with such charm that one could almost feel good about spending the night in the newsroom rather than bed.

In a room producing 200 news bulletins and programmes for 44 different language services round the clock, she needed considerable skill to ensure those working in close proximity were best fitted for the job. There were no cock-ups.

Carrington's glass-fronted office overlooking the newsroom was a sanctum of friendly, intelligent conversation. Her door was virtually always open. If it were closed, there was keen interest as to who was in there and why. Jane Carrington was better informed than the most inquisitive of journalists. She knew about liaisons and their break-ups before anyone else; who couldn't stand working with whom; and the progress of people's children.

Although not herself a journalist, she had the journalist's skill of knowing when to be silent to invite that further disclosure which occurs between friends. They knew it would go no further than her office. One former well-known correspondent described her as a model interviewer. The very few with the temerity to question too deeply saw a raising of the eyebrows which made them realise they had stepped over the line.

The new wave of journalists joining in the 1960s found themselves working with people who had fled the Nazis or the Red Army, or both, who had served in the armed forces during the Second World War or (it was whispered) with army intelligence or the secret service. Carrington was a real link between them and those arriving with experience of international news agencies, Africa, Switzerland, Australasia and other parts of the world. She was the keeper of the room's oral history.

She also probably features in the Communist secret police files in Poland. Two senior Polish media officials visiting the newsroom during the Cold War wanted to see the censor. They refused to believe there was no such person and, when they saw Carrington in her "glass box" in the corner, they knew they had found her. They were told she had great power, but was not the censor. Carrington was highly amused.

Born in Hampstead, north London, in 1929, Jane Carrington was the daughter of Noel Carrington, the founder of Puffin Books, and niece of the Bloomsbury artist Dora Carrington. Jane's sister Joanna also became an artist of note, both under her own name and the pseudonym "Reginald Pepper", and Joanna's daughter Sophie is also an artist. After finishing school in Switzerland, Jane joined the BBC aged 20, and stayed for nearly 40 years, until her retirement in 1986.

Jane Carrington was a slight person, quietly spoken. She was also very private but gradually some learned that her disability, which had always been apparent, began when she contracted polio about the age of five, that she loved the garden at her cottage in Dunsfold, Surrey, and the Oxfordshire Downs which surrounded the farm to which her family had moved in 1945.

During retirement, she became confined to a wheelchair but throughout had never mentioned the pain and discomfort. There was a constant stream of visitors to Goring on Thames, where she had a room looking across sweeping lawns to the Thames. Using a chair that could be folded into a car boot, she loved going for lunch at old country pubs she had known much of her life or recently discovered.

Jim Edwards