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- For the New Zealand musician see Matthew Bannister (musician)
Richard Matthew Bannister (born 16 March 1957) is a British media executive and broadcaster. After attending King Edward VII School (Sheffield), he graduated in law at the University of Nottingham in 1978, and joined BBC Radio Nottingham as a trainee reporter and subsequently the presenter of its speech-based breakfast show, Morning Report. It was here that he first met Trevor Dann, whom he subsequently worked with at BBC Radio 1.
He first worked for Radio 1 as a presenter of its news programme Newsbeat between 1983 and 1986. He worked for Capital Radio as a journalist in the early eighties, before returning as Head of News and Talks, after leaving Radio 1. He was also co-presenter with Sarah Ward of Capital Radio's The Way It Is. He first established himself as a 'name' in the radio industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s as Managing Editor of GLR (Greater London Radio), the BBC's local radio station for London. Here he worked for the first time with Chris Evans, who was pioneering many of the ideas which would later win him greater success and much controversy at Radio 1, and also employed a number of the more musically credible DJs from Radio 1's past, such as Annie Nightingale, Tommy Vance, Janice Long and Johnnie Walker. The line up also included Danny Baker, Emma Freud and Chris Morris.
After working for two years in the BBC corporate centre on projects related to the renewal of the BBC's Royal Charter, in 1993 Bannister was chosen as the new controller for BBC Radio 1, replacing Johnny Beerling who had worked at the station since its inception in 1967. The station was hugely popular, but some of its DJs, producers and other staff had been working there for many years, and it was felt that younger listeners were not being sufficiently catered for.
Between 1993 and 1995 many older disc jockeys departed, including Dave Lee Travis, Simon Bates, Alan Freeman, Bob Harris, Adrian Juste, Johnnie Walker, Steve Wright, Gary Davies and Bruno Brookes. Although audiences declined dramatically, a new generation of DJs, including specialists such as Steve Lamacq (indie rock), Tim Westwood (hip-hop), Chris Goldfinger (ragga/dancehall) and Trevor Nelson (R&B), emerged and became highly popular with a younger audience, who were now catered for in a way they had not been previously. However many listeners were as a result less catered for, (especially as Radio 2 catered for somewhat older listeners on the whole) and these people often wished for a "Radio 1 and a half". Other Bannister signings including Emma Freud and Danny Baker proved less popular and were soon dropped from the schedules.
By 1995 the Britpop explosion had proved the success of Bannister's strategy: the bands he had championed a year or two earlier, when they were comparatively obscure and marginal, were now part of the mainstream, and Radio 1 was booming again. Chris Evans, who had become a hugely popular national figure as breakfast DJ, was the figurehead of this boom, but eventually things went sour; in January 1997 Evans resigned after Bannister refused to allow him to waive his Friday show, in order to concentrate on his TV show TFI Friday. After Mark Radcliffe and Marc 'Lard' Riley had an unsuccessful stint on the breakfast show, the team of Kevin Greening and Zoë Ball were hosting the breakfast show when Bannister left Radio 1 in 1998 (Ball would subsequently host the show on her own).
In the autumn of 1996 Bannister was appointed Director of Radio, a post which gave him overall responsibility over all the national BBC radio networks other than Five Live. He remained controller of Radio 1 alongside this until March 1998, when he was succeeded by Andy Parfitt. In 1999, Bannister was appointed Chief Executive of BBC Production, responsible for all non news programme making in England on television, radio and online. He oversaw production centres in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. When John Birt announced he was stepping down, Bannister was a candidate for the job of BBC Director General but lost out to Greg Dyke who appointed him Director of Marketing and Communication. In October 2000 Matthew Bannister resigned from the BBC to return to broadcasting. From 2003 to 2005 he had his own late night talk show on BBC Radio 5 Live. He also deputised for other presenters on the station as well as on programmes on Radio 4 such as Broadcasting House and Saturday PM. Since 2006 he has presented an obituary programme on Radio 4 called Last Word. He also sits in for Jeremy Vine on his lunchtime Radio 2 show.
On 20 July 2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Nottingham.
Personal life 
Bannister married his first wife, the radio and TV presenter Amanda Walker, in 1984. Their daughter Jessica was born later the same year. In 1988 Amanda drowned while swimming in the sea off the Spanish Costa Blanca during a family holiday. In 1989, Bannister married Shelagh Macleod who later became Senior Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs at the record company EMI. Shelagh died of breast cancer in 2005. In 2007, he married Katherine Hood, a private equity investor.
- Wells, Matt (2 February 2002). "Scourge of DJs takes to airwaves". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- Bannister's time as controller of Radio 1 is documented in Simon Garfield's book The Nation's Favourite
- The Radio Academy "Fellows"
- "Last Word". Last Word. 2008-01-04. BBC. BBC Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/lastword.shtml.
- Matthew Bannister page on the Radio Rewind website (includes biography, audio clip and an image)
|Controller, BBC Radio 1