Obituary: Brian Wenham

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Brian Wenham held many of the top posts in BBC Television before becoming managing director of BBC Radio, but it was in Independent Television that he started and finished his broadcasting career. He was highly civilised with a sharp wit and an acerbic manner which perhaps hampered his promotion to the very top positions for which he strove.

Wenham's father died of a heart attack at the age of 32 when his son was only eight. When Wenham himself had a first heart attack at the age of 34, just after two gruelling years editing Panorama, Sir Charles Curran, then the BBC Director-General, told him: "I have invested a lot of confidence in you, so bloody well stay alive."

Wenham read History at St John's College, Oxford, and gained a first class degree. He did his National Service as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers and then taught at a private school in Virginia. He returned to England and for the next seven years worked in Independent Television. His various jobs with ITN included Lobby Correspondent, American Correspondent and editor/producer of Dateline Westminster. For four years he worked as a freelance, producing Struggle for Peace and Power of the Dollar for ABC and News at Ten for ITN. He was also the London correspondent of the New Republic in the United States.

He was then recruited by the BBC to edit Panorama in succession to Jeremy Isaacs. He is remembered by his colleagues of those days as a laid-back, warm-hearted genius, one who always wore an astrakhan cap which made him look like a Pakistani guerrilla. He also conveyed instructions and congratulations to his staff in terse messages written on sticky pads, known as "Wenhamgrams". After two years he was made Head of the Current Affairs Group following a major reorganisation in the wake on the controversial Yesterday's Men programme which had so enraged Harold Wilson.

He was promoted next to become the Controller of BBC2. Channel 4 was then looming and Wenham had to remedy any weakness in the upmarket niche. He managed to increase the BBC2 audience by 50 per cent and was duly rewarded by being made Director of Programmes with a seat on the Board of Management, under the overall direction of Bill Cotton, the TV managing director.

When Alasdair Milne was the Director-General he wished to put Wenham in charge of all the news and current affairs programmes but Wenham did not want to take on the task. His reasons were never clear, for he certainly had the experience. Instead he became the managing director of Radio, a medium in which he had never worked before, in succession to Richard Francis.

He made a success of what he always used to refer to as "the wireless". But he was out of favour with the new BBC management and in 1988 he opted for premature retirement. He went back to Independent Television as a consultant and a non-executive director of Carlton Television.

Brian George Wenham, media consultant and broadcasting executive: born 9 February 1937; television journalist, Independent Television News 1962- 69; Editor, Panorama, BBC 1969-71, Head of Current Affairs Group 1971- 78, Controller, BBC2 1978-82, Director of Programmes, BBC TV 1983-85, managing director, BBC Radio 1986-87; chairman, UK Radio Developments 1993-97; married 1966 Elisabeth Woolley (two daughters); died Weybridge, Surrey 8 May 1997.

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