Michael Buerk

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Michael Buerk
Michael Buerk, British Museum, London, 23 June 2012 - Britain's Secret Treasures Filming.jpg
Buerk during the filming for Britain's Secret Treasures at the British Museum, London, on 23 June 2012
Born Michael Duncan Buerk
(1946-02-18) 18 February 1946 (age 68)
Solihull, West Midlands (county)
Education Secondary: Solihull School, University: University of Sussex and UWI Cardiff
Occupation TV presenter, newsreader and journalist
Notable credit(s) BBC News
999 Lifesavers
Pineapple Dance Studios
Spouse(s) Christine
Children Roland

Michael Duncan Buerk (born 18 February 1946) is a British journalist and newsreader. His reporting of the Ethiopian famine on 23 October 1984 inspired the Band Aid charity record and, subsequently, the Live Aid concert. He has been the host of BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze since 1990.

Early life[edit]

Buerk was born in Solihull,[1] and was educated at Solihull School, an Independent school in the West Midlands where he was a member of the Combined Cadet Force and represented the school on the sports field.

Michael Buerk's hopes of a career in the Royal Air Force were dashed when he failed an eyesight test at the selection centre. After a brief spell as a hod carrier[2] he began his career in journalism with the Bromsgrove Messenger, South Wales Echo (where he shared a house with Sue Lawley in Cardiff), and the Daily Mail, he joined Radio Bristol in 1970 before becoming a reporter for BBC News in 1973.

Reporter and newsreader[edit]

He was awarded the Golden Nymph award at the Monte Carlo festival for his reports on the famine from Korem in Ethiopia, first broadcast on 23 October 1984.[3] The footage of the famine was shot by Mohamed Amin. He later said that the broadcast was one of "the most influential pieces of television ever broadcast [prompting] a surge of generosity across the world for Ethiopia[that raised] more than $130 million". Another notable bulletin he is renowned for is being the first news reporter on the BBC News in the 2000s, making the bulletin at 0100 GMT on the 1 January 2000.[4]

From 1983 until 1987, Buerk was the BBC's South Africa correspondent during the dying years of apartheid in South Africa. Buerk's uncompromising reports on the brutalities of the regime resulted in the South African government expelling him from the country after four years in the post.[5][6]

Buerk has worked for

During the 2001 Oscars, Buerk commented live on air that the BBC's arts correspondent Rosie Millard was wearing the 'best supporting dress'.[7]

On the BBC's Children in Need Buerk has performed several times along with an ensemble of BBC News presenters. In 2004 he dressed in leather to perform Duran Duran classics; in 2005 he sang the Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody". He was sometimes imitated by Jon Culshaw on Dead Ringers.

In 1991, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (MA) by the University of Bath.[8]

Michael Buerk's life and career has been the subject of a comedy musical, Buerk! The Newsical which debuted in London at the Network Theatre in May 2013.[9][10]


Michael Buerk with Bettany Hughes during the filming of Britain's Secret Treasures

In 2010, he narrated Sky1 reality show Pineapple Dance Studios. Buerk has also made five guest appearances on the BBC's The One Show in April and September 2010. He has also appeared as a sit in/cover presenter for Jason Manford on six occasions.

In July 2012, he began to co-present a series on ITV called Britain's Secret Treasures alongside Bettany Hughes, looking at fifty of the most remarkable archaeological finds made by the British public. The show returned for a second series in October 2013. On 6 October 2013, he began hosting Inside the National Trust, a new Sunday afternoon documentary series.

On 22 October 2014, the BBC apologised for the language used in Buerk's early morning trail for that evening's Moral Maze in which he began: "Nobody comes out of the Ched Evans rape case with any credit – not the victim who’d drunk so much she could barely stand, nor the two footballers who had sex with her in the most sordid of circumstances."[11] Katie Russell, from Rape Crisis England and Wales, accused him of practising "victim-blaming." She commented: "To infer that being drunk is in any way 'morally' comparable to committing the serious and violent crime of rape is deeply offensive."[12][13]

Other work[edit]

In 2013, Buerk voiced a Marmite advert in which spoof rescue teams rescue lost forgotten jars at the back of cupboards and fridges and despite receiving a number of complaints the advert still continues.[14]

Charity work[edit]

On 28 July 2007, Buerk appeared on a special celebrity version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with Jennie Bond to raise money for NCH, the children's charity. With a combined effort, they raised £64,000. He is also a supporter of the British Red Cross[15] and in October 2008 came out in support of an Alternate Reality Game, Traces of Hope, which the charity developed.[16]


Buerk asserted in a Radio Times interview in August 2005 that the "shift in the balance of power between the sexes" has gone too far, we need to "admit the problem", and that men are now little more than "sperm donors".[17][18] In particular, he objected to the many women now in senior positions within the BBC. Former newsreader Anna Ford commented: "He's a dear old-fashioned chauvinist of the first order."[19][20]

The article was published in anticipation of Buerk's 45-minute TV-essay, "Michael Buerk on What Are Men For?", which was part of a series on Channel Five, Don't Get Me Started! broadcast on Tuesday 23 August 2005. Guardian television reviewer Sam Wollaston thought Buerk had "been thoroughly, and quite rightly, crucified" in the pre-publicity.[21] At the Hay-on-Wye literary festival earlier in the year, Buerk criticised contemporary newsreaders for being overpaid autocue-reading "lame brains."[22]

At the end of 2012 he despaired of the state of Britain, and of the BBC. Of the Corporation's coverage of the Thames River Pageant celebrating Britain and the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne, he wrote: "The Dunkirk Little Ships, the most evocative reminders of this country’s bravest hour, were ignored so that a pneumatic bird-brain from Strictly Come Dancing could talk to transvestites in Battersea Park."[23][24]

In an article for Radio Times in April 2014 about 'grey power' in television he referred to presenters who had gone to employment tribunals over claims of age discrimination.[25] Several older female presenters have won cases over wrongful dismissal. Buerk wrote: "If you got the job in the first place mainly because you look nice, I can't see why you should keep it when you don't." Quoting a comment by Anne Robinson ("The viewers don’t want to watch ugly") he speculated: "She seemed to say it through gritted teeth, or at least a flawless but strangely taut face – a sign perhaps that she had taken her own advice to stop complaining and work on staying attractive."[25] He did though quote Angela Rippon who spoke positively about older people (including herself) being able to continue their careers in television.[26][27] Responding to Buerk in The Guardian, presenter Miriam O'Reilly, who won her case for unfair dismissal on age grounds in 2011, asserted: "The rules that apply to women in TV don't apply to men. Men can age, women can't. Women have to be attractive, men don't."[28]

Personal life[edit]

Buerk lives in Guildford with his wife, with whom he has twin sons. One of his sons, Roland, who is also a BBC journalist, survived the South Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2004,[29] and was also in Tokyo when the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami struck.[30] On 18 July 2013 he was awarded an honorary "Doctor of the University" degree at Surrey University's awards ceremony in Guildford Cathedral.


  1. ^ "Author Spotlight". Randomhouse.ca. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Michael Buerk (2005). The Road Taken. Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-09-946137-1. 
  3. ^ "1984: Extent of Ethiopia famine revealed". BBC News. 1984-10-23. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  4. ^ "The Road Taken, An Autobiography", Michael Buerk, Hutchinson, 2004
  5. ^ "CV; MICHAEL BUERK Newscaster and presenter of `999'". The Independent (London). 23 June 1997. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Michael Buerk". BBC News. 3 January 2003. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Terri Judd, As Buerk signs off, who will take BBC news hot seat?, The Independent, 8 June 2002
  8. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  9. ^ Promotional website Buerk! The Newsical
  10. ^ Entertainment focus Buerk! The Newsical review
  11. ^ Anita Singh "Ched Evans' victim was drunk and deserves no credit, says BBC's Michael Buerk", Telegraph, 22 October 2014
  12. ^ Ryan Hooper "BBC apologises after presenter Michael Buerk criticised Ched Evans rape victim for 'being drunk'", Independent (Eire), 22 October 2014
  13. ^ "BBC apologises over Michael Buerk’s comments on Ched Evans case", theguardian.com (Press Association), 22 October 2014
  14. ^ "Marmite TV advert draws widespread complaints". bbc.co.uk. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  15. ^ "Celebrity update 2006". Redcross.org.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  16. ^ "Michael Buerk – British Red Cross". Redcross.org.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  17. ^ "Buerk attacks women broadcasters". BBC News. 16 August 2005. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  18. ^ Richard Alleyne "It's a woman's world, moans Michael Buerk", Daily Telegraph, 16 August 2005
  19. ^ Tom Leonard "Buerk 'is bonkers if he thinks women are taking over the world'", Telegraph, 17 August 2005
  20. ^ Chris Johnston "Montague clashes with Buerk over gender comments", theguardian.com (Media Guardian), 18 August 2005
  21. ^ Sam Wollaston (24 August 2005). "Murder he wrote". Guardian (UK). Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  22. ^ Brian Courtis "In whom we trust", The Age, 3 July 2005
  23. ^ Michael Buerk "2012: The year we felt that golden glow of resurgent Middle England (And not even my cringingly inept BBC could shatter the illusion)", Mail on Sunday, 30 December 2012
  24. ^ Caroline Davies "Michael Buerk savages BBC's coverage of Queen's diamond jubilee", guardian.co.uk, 30 October 2012
  25. ^ a b Michael Buerk "Why grey power is now a force to be reckoned with on television", Radio Times, 12 April 2014
  26. ^ Hannah Furness "Michael Buerk criticises TV presenters who 'cry ageism'", Telegraph, 8 April 2014
  27. ^ Hatty Collier "Michael Buerk criticises female presenters who 'cry ageism'", The Guardian, 8 April 2014
  28. ^ Miriam O'Reilly "Michael Buerk's comments show sexism still exists in the TV industry", The Guardian, 8 April 2014
  29. ^ BBC journalist marries the girlfriend who saved him from tsunami
  30. ^ "Tsunami hits Japan after massive quake". BBC. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 

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