Mike Dickin

Radio 'Mr Grumpy'
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The Independent Online

Robert Michael Dickin, broadcaster and journalist: born Reading 28 September 1943; twice married (two sons, three daughters); died Bodmin, Cornwall 18 December 2006.

One of the most challenging nights of Mike Dickin's career was being on air in 1997 as the news service IRN (Independent Radio News) announced that Diana, Princess of Wales had been involved in a car crash. At the time Dickin was working as host of a phone-in show on Talk Radio UK, the radio station now known as talkSPORT and, as the broadcaster who first announced the news of the Princess's death, he set the benchmark that night.

Born in 1943, Dickin worked early in his life as a motoring writer and later drove a Mini in the 1977 London to Sydney Rally. A job at BBC Radio Oxford in 1970 was the start of his career in "think-on-your-feet radio". There was a definite attraction on his part to theatricality (he played bass guitar as a hobby) that showed up again and again, especially when he had an on-air rant, and it earned him the title "Mr Grumpy".

In the late Seventies he moved to Capital Radio in London and worked on a show called Midnight Special. Even then, the format showed the way his future would develop. A mix of three callers and three records gave him a chance to express his opinions and disagree when he felt it was all going too smoothly. There was a later attempt to get a book he had written published - when he spoke about it, in a passing reference, about 15 years later, claiming that no one wanted to publish it, the regret in his voice was apparent.

As he was getting his show together, and his production staff were helping write up the cues and crib sheets, at some point there might be an explosive and outrageous reaction to a story on the wire services or in the newspapers' first editions. Then the production assistants would look at each other with barely masked grins; they knew from an outburst of pure Dickin that it was going to be "a good one tonight".

After working at Capital Radio, Dickin was asked to join LBC (London Broadcasting Company). His producer there was Nikki Townley. Townley recalls that, when Dickin was presented with the Local Radio Personality of the Year award in 1994, "A very well-known BBC presenter was on stage in front of Mike, just wrapping up her essential list of assistants - this wasn't lost on Mike. He followed her extended list of thanks by simply pointing me out as his entire production team and at the same time highlighting the disparity between the BBC and commercial radio - point made, I would suggest."

Townley also remembers that one event at LBC involving Mike Dickin inspired an episode of the TV hit Drop the Dead Donkey. People with large personalities generate urban myths, and my personal favourite is of Dickin's having done stunt-driving in the 1969 film The Italian Job. It turns out to be true.

Mike Allen