Obituary: Eric Stadlen

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The Independent Online
Erich (Eric) Stadlen, journalist: born Vienna 28 April 1917; married 1973 Pamela Jones (two sons; marriage dissolved 1994; and one son by Ceridwen Maurice-Jones); died London 10 January 1995.

Eric Stadlen was one of that band of gifted young Viennese Jews who escaped to Britain at the time of the Anschluss in 1938 and went on to join the BBC and make a unique contribution to its programmes and to its culture.

He owed his escape to his brother Peter, then starting his career as a pianist. Eric was in London to attend a recital by Peter, who then prevented his planned return to Vienna, which could have been fatal, by secreting his passport. Like so many of his contemporaries he was treated as an "enemy" alien at the outbreak of the Second World War and shipped off to Australia, but pressure from friends soon brought him back to England, and to the BBC, which he joined in 1942.

As a student in Vienna Stadlen had done some part-time writing and journalism, so it is not surprising that he should quickly have found his way into the BBC's News Department, then in full expansion. For over 25 years he worked as an editor, principallyon Radio Newsreel, the first news programme of its kind, whose tradition of fast, up-to-the-minute editing he helped to create. Stadlen fell in love with the excitement of live broadcasting and the challenge of putting on the air a programme which demanded split-second decisions, often made when the programme had already started. He excelled at tearing order out of last-minute chaos, and there were those who occasionally accused him of deliberately creating chaos simply for the thrill of sorting it out under extreme pressure.

Gifted and with great instinctive flair, Stadlen proved an inspiring teacher when later he was put in charge of training graduate entries and other newcomers to BBC news. Many of today's best-known BBC journalists, such as Jeremy Paxman, Gerald Butt, Laurie Margolis, Nicholas Witchell and Brian Hanrahan, passed through his hands and speak warmly of their affection and professional respect for him. After his retirement from the BBC he taught at the City University Graduate Centre for Journalism.

Stadlen was a formidable card-player and compulsive gambler, thinking nothing of playing bridge or poker through the night. One of his favourite games was "Schnapps", which he had learned in his youth from Viennese taxi-drivers. The stakes were calculated in measures of that powerful spirit.

He became a Christian in 1951 and joined the Christian Community in north-west London, of which he remained an active member for the rest of his life. He had a warm, affectionate, outgoing personality, not without its roguish side, and displayed in good measure the journalist's irreverent attitude to authority, which not infrequently extended to his own superiors.