Obituary: Aidan Crawley

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The Independent Online
Aidan Merivale Crawley, politician, journalist, television executive: born 10 April 1908; MP (Labour) Buckingham 1945-51, (Conservative) West Derbyshire 1962-68; MBE 1946; Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for the Colonies 1945, 1946-47; Parliamentary Under- Secretary for Air 1950-51; Editor-in- Chief, Independent Television News 1955-56; Chairman, London Weekend Television 1967-71, President 1961-73; President, MCC 1973; books include Escape from Germany 1956, De Gaulle: a biography 1969, The Rise of Western Germany 1945-72 1973; married 1945 Virginia Cowles (died 1983; one daughter, and two sons deceased); died 3 November 1993.

BETWEEN losing his parliamentary seat in 1951 and founding Independent Television News in 1955 Aidan Crawley established himself as one of the first BBC television documentary-makers in the field of current affairs, writes Leonard Miall.

In 1952, before he and his American journalist wife Virginia set off on a five months' tour to study the working of democracy in India, he suggested to the Director of BBC Television, his friend George Barnes, that he should make a series of films, shot on his own 35- millimetre camera. The result was a remarkable series of six programmes entitled India's Challenge, produced by Grace Wyndham Goldie, which rapidly brought Crawley into the forefront of television commentators.

On 2 July 1954 Aidan Crawley, with James Bredin, one of the best current affairs producers in the Television Talks Department, began the series Viewfinder, loosely based on the pattern of Edward R. Murrow's See It Now in the United States, which Crawley greatly admired. The programme ran very successfully until April of the following year when it had to cease because Crawley had accepted an approach by the then existing ITV companies to start the company to provide news for the new commercial network. Sadly for us at the BBC he took his producer with him and for five years Bredin was the senior ITN producer before eventually becoming the Managing Director of Border Television.

Crawley resigned from his position of Editor-in-Chief of ITN the following year because the ITV contractors failed to give him adequate airtime or financial resources. But the battle he fought enabled his successor, Geoffrey Cox, to build on and develop the edifice he had successfully started with his initial newcasters Chris Chataway and Robin Day, supplemented - when neither happened to be available one night - by Ludovic Kennedy.

Much of Crawley's resilience came from his outstanding career as a sportsman. He played cricket for Oxford University and for Kent. Once he hit 10 sixes in one innings in a first-class match and he was eventually President of the MCC. He was a remarkable all-rounder and a splendid companion.

(Photograph omitted)

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