Joseph Weltman

Key figure in educational broadcasting
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The Independent Online

Joseph Weltman was one of the formative voices in educational broadcasting both at the BBC and in Independent Television.

Joseph Weltman, educationalist and broadcasting producer: born Manchester 19 October 1910; OBE 1967; married 1935 Margery Barnard (died 1985; two daughters); died York 7 September 2004.

Joseph Weltman was one of the formative voices in educational broadcasting both at the BBC and in Independent Television.

His 32-year career in broadcasting began in 1946 when he became producer of language programmes in the BBC Schools Radio service. Here he introduced a series of original productions of French drama for sixth-form students with the Comédie Française. Later he moved to the Third Programme, where he was responsible for producing radio talks including The Critics, a weekly programme chaired by Sir Gerald Barry. For several years he also produced the Reith Lectures and introduced outstanding contributors such as Professor Sir Bernard Lovell and Sir Peter Medawar to the series.

As planning for the introduction of schools television programmes began he was involved in the BBC's closed-circuit pilot experiment with a number of schools and in 1961 he was invited to join Granada Television as the head of its Schools Department in Manchester. Granada now expanded its schools output with an arts series and a current affairs programme aimed at sixth forms and established its own educational advisory committee. Weltman persuaded the company to appoint two education officers to liaise with schools, colleges and the education authorities in the Granada area.

Many of his producers and colleagues testify to the support they received from him. He was a strong defender of them all. Sometimes they would have difficult moments in their dealings with Sidney Bernstein, Granada's dynamic chairman. Joe Weltman would quickly push these aside and restore a sense of perspective.

The ITV Schools network now expanded as more companies were awarded regional contracts and, in 1963, Weltman was appointed to the national post of Education Officer to the Independent Television Authority. Widespread consultation on educational programmes took place and a joint liaison committee with the BBC Schools department was established to avoid overlaps in the provision of schools programmes. In 1967 Weltman was appointed OBE for his service to educational broadcasting.

He was promoted to Head of Programme Services at the ITA, which involved careful and skilled negotiations with all the ITV programme contractors on matters concerning general programming on the network, and remained in this key post until his retirement in 1975.

A year later, however, he was called out of retirement to cover a temporary vacancy as Head of Education and continued to be involved with general broadcasting by researching and compiling material for the IBA's "Television Programme Guidelines". In this he contributed in a lively way to issues at the forefront of his concerns. When he finally retired in 1977 he assisted Bernard Sendall, then Deputy Director-General at the ITA, in compiling his first two volumes of the history Independent Television in Britain (1982-83).

He retired to be near his family in York, where his beloved wife, Margery, died in 1985. His interest in education undiminished, he became the founding chairman of York's University of the Third Age, teaching his Advanced German class right up to the time of his death.

Joe Weltman was a man of vigorous intellect open to new ideas, sharp wit and passionate moral determination, whose life truly spanned the 20th century; born in Manchester in 1910 to parents of Central European origin, he won scholarships successively to Manchester Grammar School and St John's College, Cambridge, where he took Firsts in both parts of the Modern Languages Tripos. From there he enrolled at Tübingen University in Germany, where he witnessed at first hand the emergence of Fascism and the Nazi party. At one point he and a fellow student leant from an upper window to empty a bucket of water on a group of Blackshirts seeking recruits. Later in the decade he was to warn the then editor of the Manchester Guardian of the threat of imminent war, only to be told to quit scaremongering.

On return from Germany he committed himself to teaching, first at the High School for Boys in Scarborough, where he met Margery, who was teaching at the Girls' High School. They married in 1935. From there he went to Liverpool Institute High School, and thence to the City of London School, which was evacuated to Marlborough, where his daughters were born. By then he was serving in RAF Intelligence, interrogating prisoners of war in North Africa with his linguistic skills and subtle techniques.

He made a substantial contribution to public life in the crucial years after the Second World War.

Frank Harris