George Alagiah

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George Alagiah OBE
Hadrian Wall Fair Trade Launch (3330237211).jpg
George Alagiah pictured in 2009.
Born George Maxwell Alagiah
(1955-11-22) 22 November 1955 (age 58)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Other names George Alagiah OBE
Ethnicity Tamil
Education University of Durham
Occupation Journalist, Presenter, Newsreader, Author
Notable credit(s) BBC News at Six
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Frances Robathan (1984–present)
Children 2

George Alagiah OBE (/ˌæləˈɡə/; born 22 November 1955 in Colombo, Ceylon) is a British newsreader, journalist and television news presenter.

Since 3 December 2007, he has been the sole presenter of the BBC News at Six and has also been the main presenter of GMT on BBC World News since its launch on 1 February 2010. He is also the main relief presenter for the BBC News at Ten and has held this role since its launch in 2000, making him the longest serving presenter of the flagship news programme.


Alagiah's parents, Donald Alagiah, an engineer, and Therese, were Sri Lankan Tamil.[1][2] In 1961 his parents moved to Ghana in West Africa, where he did his primary education at Christ the King International School.[3] He spent his secondary education at St John's College, an independent Catholic boarding school in Portsmouth, England, after which he read politics at Van Mildert College, Durham University.[3] Whilst at Durham, he wrote for and became editor of the student newspaper Palatinate and was a sabbatical officer of Durham Students' Union. He worked on South Magazine from 1982 until joining the BBC, where he was the Developing World correspondent based in London and then Southern Africa correspondent in Johannesburg.[3]

In 2004, he returned to his grandfather's original home in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami to survey the damage.[3] The family's former home had been destroyed, though he was able to recognise an old well he had played at with his sisters, although the well was unsalvageable.

He is married to Frances Robathan. He recently started wearing glasses as of April 2013.[2]

Broadcasting career[edit]

Alagiah joined the BBC in 1989 after seven years in print journalism with South Magazine.[4] Before going behind the studio desk, George was one of the BBC's leading foreign correspondents, reporting on events ranging from the genocide in Rwanda, the plight of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq and civil wars in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.[3]

He was the presenter of BBC Four News from its launch in 2002; the programme was later relaunched as The World. and in January 2003 he joined the BBC News at Six, which he co-presented with Sophie Raworth until October 2005, and with Natasha Kaplinsky until October 2007. Since 3 December 2007, he has been the sole presenter of the Six O'Clock News. Prior to that, he had been the deputy anchor of the BBC News at One from 1999. From the 3 July 2006, he presented World News Today on BBC World News, which was rebranded GMT on the 1 February 2010. He is also a relief presenter on BBC News at Ten presenting mainly Monday - Thursday when Fiona Bruce is unavailable.

A specialist on Africa and the developing world, Alagiah has interviewed, among others, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.[3] His other documentaries and features include reports on why affirmative action in America is a 'Lost Cause', for the Assignment programme, Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against the Kurds of northern Iraq for the BBC's Newsnight programme and a report on the last reunion of the veterans of Dunkirk.[4]

Awards and interests[edit]

In 2000, Alagiah was part of the BBC team which collected a BAFTA award for its coverage of the Kosovo conflict. He has won numerous awards including Best International Report at the Royal Television Society in 1993 and in 1994 was the overall winner of the Amnesty International UK Media Awards. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

His appearances at literary festivals include Cheltenham, Keswick, Hay-on-Wye and London, and he has spoken at the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Arts and at the Royal Overseas League. He is on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

From 2002-09 George Alagiah was a patron of the Fairtrade Foundation [5] from which in July 2009, he was obliged to resign by BBC Management who claimed professional conflict of interest.[6][7] Complaints were received at the BBC from the public who were unhappy that Alagiah had been asked to step down. The BBC responded that in keeping with its principles of impartiality, it would be inappropriate for one of its leading journalists to be seen supporting a movement that clearly represents a controversial view of global trade.[8][9] He has also been actively involved in supporting microfinance as a tool for development, including recent appearances in support of Opportunity International. He has been a patron of Parenting UK since 2000.

In 2010 he was given the Outstanding Achievement in Television award at The Asian Awards.[10] Alagiah has described himself in the past as being "a hopeless Otaku".[11]


  1. ^ Daily Mail, 2009 Retrieved 25 July 2010
  2. ^ a b New York Sun, 6 June 2006 Retrieved 25 June 2010
  3. ^ a b c d e f "BBC Press Office: George Alagiah". Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "NewsWatch: George Alagiah". BBC News. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2006. 
  5. ^ fairtrade;org - YouTube video. Retrieved 25 July 2010
  6. ^ Fartrade statement Retrievede 25 June 2010
  7. ^ "Alagiah asked to quit charity job". BBC News. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (17 August 2009). "BBC move on George Alagiah's Fairtrade role brings 200 complaints". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  9. ^ BBC Complaints retrieved 25 June 2010
  10. ^ The Asian Awards 2010 Winners List
  11. ^ [1] Interview with George Alagiah

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Huw Edwards
Main Presenter of BBC News at Six
2003 – present
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Moira Stuart
Deputy Presenter of BBC News at One
1999 – 2002
Succeeded by
Darren Jordon