Obituary: Chris Griffin-Beale

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The Independent Online
IN THE age of spin doctors and campaigns of disinformation, Channel 4's long-time head of press Chris Griffin-Beale was a welcome bastion of straightforward dealing and well-informed comment for journalists writing about the channel, as well as a hugely important campaigner for its causes.

A journalist himself for many years, Griffin-Beale joined Channel 4 as its first press officer, in 1981, from the television industry trade magazine, Broadcast. He remained at Channel 4 for 17 years, one of the few remaining members of staff from its launch in 1982. In that time he worked alongside three very different chief executives: Jeremy Isaacs, Michael Grade and latterly Michael Jackson.

Griffin-Beale was a stalwart of the channel's defining campaigns: to abolish its controversial Funding Formula - through which ITV received over pounds 300m from the Channel 4 coffers - and to banish the threat of privatisation. Grade, due in no small part to the efforts of his head of press, was successful in both. Ever-watchful, though, Griffin-Beale never failed to remind the media pack that the war against privatisation was not over.

Born in 1947, he elected for a career in television early, working for a year at the BBC before going on in 1966 to study English and Russian at Sussex University, where he also edited a student television programme. After graduating in 1969 he worked as a researcher, again for the BBC, before spending three years at the Council for Educational Technology producing information films. He became a freelance journalist in 1975, then joined Broadcast in 1978.

Although immensely tolerant of journalists as a species, he would become enraged if he felt Channel 4 was being attacked unjustly. Largely understanding of, for example, the Daily Mail's consistent outrage at the programmes and audiences targeted by the channel, he would shrug off the latest attack as part of a symbiotic relationship; the channel, he felt, would be doing something wrong if the Mail found it uncontroversial.

However, he was deeply protective of the spirit of the channel and took personally the Mail's christening of Michael Grade as the country's "pornographer- in-chief". This was an insult too far in his eyes, and he was never able to refer to it calmly.

Following Grade's sudden resignation last January, Channel 4 experienced a period of deep uncertainty with the battle to be the next chief executive waged both internally and externally. As a seasoned campaigner, Griffin- Beale handled a period of massive change with frankness and calm - hacks speculating about the next to leave the channel's gleaming Horseferry Road headquarters would be met with sharp words. As ever though with Griffin- Beale, a robust exchange of views on one occasion would be forgotten by the next.

Above all, Chris Griffin-Beale was deeply passionate about Channel 4 and its role in British broadcasting. He will be remembered by the journalists he dealt with for his hospitality, his informed briefings, his willingness to reminisce and his absolute respect for his colleagues.

He spoke frequently of his wife, Lucy, and three daughters, Sophy, Phoebe and Natasha. When Sophy joined Southfields School in south-west London in 1992, Chris became a parent-governor, thus renewing his interest in education, which he had previously covered as a freelance journalist for the Times Educational Supplement and the Guardian.

Christopher Griffin-Beale, journalist and press officer: born 7 October 1947; married (three daughters); died London 23 May 1998.